I’m colorblind, my grandfather was also colorblind. He passed it on to me. Wearecolorblind.com is dedicated to him.

On dinner plates, green cats and my grandfather

On dinner plates, green cats and my grandfather

I’m colorblind, my grandfather was also colorblind. He passed it on to me. Wearecolorblind.com is dedicated to him.

One evening while over for dinner I was helping my grandfather to set the table. He told me to get the green plates from the cupboard. I grabbed them and put them om the table.
My grandmother overheard this from the other room and came in – quite confused – to ask were on earth I got the green plates from. Apparently the green plates were blue.

My grandfather had had this set of plates for many years but never knew or realized they were blue.
Now, this might sound weird. How can a man for many years eat from the same plate and never realize that they are in fact not green?

It’s safe to assume he never really asked himself what color they were, he probably had a general idea but he never put a name to it. Only when he actively had to think about the color it became apparent that he was wrong.

This is not that strange, to the colorblind the name of a color is often irrelevant. They think in groups; blue/green/grey, orange/red/brown, black/green/grey. Naming a color is a frustrating process, prone to mistake. Something can without a doubt be green, but most of the time you really can’t be sure.

There are so many objects which I was certain I knew the color of when someone asked me: the couch in our living room, our cat (animals can’t be green?), the hair color of a friend and Luigy from the mario games. All wrong.

Not being able to get something right that everyone else seems to just know is a big part of the frustration. You have to look at a colored object from different angles, keep it in the light, put it next to another color or try to apply some sort of logic to naming it. And even then you’ll get it wrong.

Color is usually something undebatable. Grass is green, roses are red and the sky is blue. Cats can’t be green, but no one ever told me. Imagine singing along with a popular song, only to find out that you’ve had the lyrics wrong for as long as you can remember.

This explains why a lot of color blind don’t really ask themselves what color something is. It’s embarrassing and generally not worth the effort for a lot of colorblind people. It’s easier to stick to generalizations and avoid mistakes and embarrassment. “Blueish”, “kind of red”, “green, or grey”.

In the end, is it really that important? My grandfather and I had an understanding; to him the plates seemed green, to me – when he told me to get the green ones – they were green.

For the purpose of communication the color served its job. It didn’t matter what color they were as long as I knew which plates to grab.

But what if it would have been my grandmother telling me to get the blue plates that night? We would have eaten from cake plates or soup bowls.. and I would have been embarrassed.

Not everyone is part of this colorful world we all think we live in. Sometimes it’s better to tell someone to get the big plates from the second drawer on the left.

*

Comments

  1. Alexandra

    It’s a minor thing, but “Luigy” is actually “Luigi”. Common for Italian names, I guess?

  2. Lane

    Well I can’t see the color of eyes as some people tell me, i really don’t mind if I am or not it’s just color.

  3. Joseph Nollette

    There do exist some green animals. Some examples include frogs, crocodiles and chameleons.

    Er bestaan ​​wel enkele groene dieren. Enkele voorbeelden zijn kikkers, krokodillen en kameleons.

  4. Aaron

    Two things really resonated with me in this one.

    1. My cat frequently switches between orange and green depending on the ambient lighting.
    2. “This explains why a lot of color blind don’t really ask themselves what color something is.” I’ve found that this manifests itself strong with eye color. I find non-colorblind people always identify, and quickly, the color of someone’s eyes and then later remember it as an important detail. I can stare right at someone and just never bother processing even if they were light or dark.

  5. Ned

    Trying to make the web less color-challenging is a good aim, but why stop with that? I am red-green colorblind and have been thinking for some time that American anti-discrimination consciousness should be raised by the fact that more than 8 percent of men and a significant actual number of women have difficulty with everything that is color coded—including maps, charts, electrical wires, blinking lights in electronic devices, hiking trail markers, and many other important features of our lives. I would support an organization devolted to ending such mindless discrimination. Anyone else feel likewise?

    • Lennart Goosens

      I believe in the Netherlands (maybe all of Europe?) electrical wiring used to be red-green (at least until 1970, when my previous apartment was built), but they changed it to blue-brown, presumably because of the staggering number of colour blind electricians ending up in a coffin… :P

      (Remember, the phase conductor is the one you shouldn’t ever touch… Now I wonder, which colour was that again? :/ And I’m not even colour blind.)

    • dallas

      thanks

  6. Kyle

    Great observations on colorblindness, but I think you mean “were” in every instance you write, “where”.

    • Tom van Beveren

      Thanks Kyle, I fixed it.

  7. Katie Cunningham

    I’m missing some pinks, and as a woman, this has lead to no shortage of arguments with others about if something matches or not. It doesn’t help that I was in college when I finally found out I was mildly color blind.

    My kids will actually troll me, sometimes, if I call something ‘pink.’ “Mooooom. that’s orange!” I finally installed an app that gives me the hex code of whatever the camera’s focused on to catch them.

    • Lennart Goosens

      Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t compensate for lighting changes (as well) as our eyes do, so unless you carefully set your camera’s white balance every time, the hexadecimal numbers could be waaaay off…

  8. Koichi

    Dominik19. Me4rz 2012Ja, den Schieber im Readability-Beispiel finde ich auch stark und by the way, konzeptionell gut ugemsetzt! Mit diesem Link weist du auf jeden Fall freundlich auf diese Problematik hin.

  9. Mike

    Thanks for your efforts in making the web better for color blind people. Has any weather site worked with you to help color blind people understand the radar and rain tables, etc?

    • Jim

      I have trouble with traffic websites. Their red-fades-to-yellow-fades-to-green colors are useless. SigAlert.com is a good example. The only color I’m sure of is the yellow. (Check during Pacific time rush hours.)