Join me among the colour-blind


Traffic lights are not a problem at all because I know they are red, amber and white. You go on the green
and I go on the white.

When people learn that you are colour-blind they usually feel compelled to ask a set of fairly predictable
questions. “What colour is this?”; “What colours can’t you see?”; “What does blue look like to you?”;
“So, is everything … like black and white?” and so on.

Sometimes the answers cause amusement or fascination and sometimes sympathy: “Ag shame, that
must be so weird”.

Actually, it’s not weird at all – after 63 years I’ve kind of gotten used to being partially colour-blind. It is
something people, usually men, are born with and that does not change significantly throughout an
average life-span.

There is no standard type of colour-blindness. All the colour blind people I have ever met
experience slight variations. My brother and I are both partially colour-blind but we have slight differences. We are both fairly run-of-the- mill green/red colour-blind, but not exactly the same.
I found out I was colour-blind the hard way – when I was quite young.

A green camel might be absurd to you, but it wasn’t to me when I drew one in primary school. My
teacher had a hysterical fit and treated me as if I were an underground saboteur. Following the fine
teaching methodology of the time, she screamed at me, gave me punishment but never for a moment
did she consider the possibility of an innocent reason for my green camel.

The most difficult question to answer clearly is, “What do you see green as?”. This is complicated
because the colour – to me anyway – is dependent on its shade and texture.

So for example, what you might see as healthy green grass, I see a bright orange lawn. No, I’m not
kidding. My green car looks green, but other cars decked out in a somewhat different shade could look,

Traffic lights are not a problem at all because I know they are red, amber and white. You go on the green
and I go on the white. So if anyone asks how do I drive, the stock answer is “rather well, thank-you”.
When I did my driving licence test way back in the mists of time, they showed me a cardboard
sheet with coloured circles and asked the colours. I had no problem with the red and the amber, and
when they showed a brown circle I still had no problem, I simply told them it was green and passed the
colour-blindness test with flying colours.

In my teens, I took a greater interest in the phenomenon and discovered tests that claimed to reveal
what type of colour-blindness you had. Silly sods. Just because you have one minor challenge, it does
not mean you are stupid.

The pages of these tests were covered in a scramble of small, coloured dots and, depending on your
particular colour-blindness, you would see a different number. I quickly learnt that if I saw an
eight, I should say 20; or if I saw 13, I should say five. It was easy to prove that my colour vision was

Yes, it is annoying. I can’t eat a banana without asking someone if it is the right colour and there are
other minor irritations. But overall, it’s not bad at all. I still enjoy a rather colourful world even though
the colours I see might not be quite the same as the ones you see.

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