It’s the start of a new school year in the UK, and we are gearing up for a series of important events and days (weeks/months) to foster inclusive practice in the education community as well raising awareness in the general population. But how much do you know about colour blindness and how it can affect daily life?
Colour blindness, also, and perhaps more correctly, known as colour vision deficiency (CVD) affects around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women (NHS, 2016). This means that a mixed class of 30 children is statistically likely to contain at least one student who has CVD.
Over the years I’ve known colourblind colleagues – there was Nick, who, to much office hilarity, had no idea his wellies weren’t green back in the days when that was the pretty much the only colour available (snow day). My own godfather was colourblind. Classmates and pupils have announced their colour blindness, but then simply shrugged it off as something they simply had to deal with.
It was not until I met a student whose learning was significantly impacted by CVD that I realised
- the prevalence of the condition
- the effect that CVD can have on a person’s access to information
Here’s an example of how simple colour-coding can make a working adult’s life harder:
Top right is normal colour vision, and I have selected the maximum degree of each type of colour blindness on my filter.
These mop heads that have been colour-coded for specific use in public places such as schools and hospitals. Depending on the type of cleaning or spillage, a different mop must be used to avoid cross contamination. Sensible, but completely unhelpful if you have CVD. It’s not necessary to lose the colour coding, but adding an identifying icon or written label would make all the difference.
Colour-coded charts and tables online or in magazines are similarly confusing, and any weekend afternoon on Twitter will reveal sports fans who are unable to distinguish their team’s colour from the opponents’.
Particularly in primary classrooms, where life experience and developing reading skills may not be enough to unpick the intended meaning, colour can sometimes add confusion rather than eliminating it:
As adults, we have enough experience to know which continent is which. Imagine for a moment, though, how a seven-year-old might feel, moving into his (or her) first KS2 classroom at junior school.
Its a small addition to a busy workload, but if every teacher add simple wording, and icon or other clear illustration to classroom displays and objects such as coloured pens and pencils, then perhaps one chid in every classroom could have a better start to the academic year.
As well as this, and thanks to excellent advice from Colour Blind Awareness, I now routinely check any resources I use or produce with a free CV Simulator app. It’s a minor adjustment to my practice, and if it elevates a student’s spirit (not to mention access to learning opportunities) once in a while, then that’s well worth the effort.