Whenever I mention that I'm colorblind, the first thing my companions do is immediately point to the nearest object and ask what color it is. They then proceed to point out every object in the room and pose the same question, becoming increasingly surprised as I answer each one correctly.
What people fail to realize is that colorblindness does not always imply black-and-white eyesight, like a dog, or a confusion in my eyes that mismatches every color I see. Just like every other disease or disorder, colorblindness varies in type and degree.
There are three main types of colorblindness: total colorblindness, red-green colorblindness, and yellow-blue colorblindness (for technical terms see monochromacy, dichromacy and trichromacy), with a few even rarer cases of not being able to see other colors. Both total and red-green colorblindness are hereditary and typically affect only the male side of the gender pool, although they are passed down the generations on the mother's side of the family.
Total colorblindness is the typical vision we expect dogs to have (although many scientists now believe this to be a myth), meaning affected individuals only see varying hues of black, white and gray. Total colorblindness is extremely rare (0.00001 percent of males and females) and is even considered by some to be a completely separate category of vision impairment.
The colorblindness affecting most people, myself included, is red-green colorblindness. Red-green colorblindness affects approximately 7 to 10 percent of all males and (contrary to popular belief) does not render every individual unable to distinguish between the colors of the lights on a stoplight. I have had my driver's license for two years now, and never have I received a ticket that resulted from such a matter.
Red-green colorblindness can result in someone seeing the color red as green, or the color green as red but, most of the time the problem with this color deficiency is not in being unable to "see" the different hues of the colors but in not being able to distinguish between them when their values (lightness or darkness) are really close.
For example, you hand me a dark red ball and a bright green apple, and I will have absolutely no problem telling you which color they are. However, you take that same dark red ball and put it next to another ball that's a slightly dark brown color -- or put the bright green apple next to a yellow-green apple -- and I may have some trouble. Many times in elementary school I would be asked to pass the red crayon and would end up passing the brown one. Of all the colorful objects I have the most trouble with, pastel paints and socks have to be the worst.
While red and green are the main colors I have trouble distinguishing, I also have a hard time with dark blue and purple, dark brown and black, or other closely related colors like that. Socks and pastel paints abound in varying shades of each, and I have sworn never to attempt searching through my mom's paints again because it always results in multiple trips up and down the stairs and burning calves. I always end up sending my sister downstairs in the end anyway, so I've finally decided to always send her after them first if, by some chance, I need to use them. Matching socks was also at one time a difficult task and I was even excused at one point from doing this part of the laundry because I couldn't figure it out.
Now I've figured out ways to get around my "matching" difficulties; for instance, with the socks, I take time to assess the colors rather than rushing through the job. This provides an excellent explanation for the reason I've only met two or three other people with colorblindness in my life, that I knew of.
Most colorblind individuals find a way around their difficulties and don't express their deficiency. Just like everyone else, we've found ways to make do with what we have and learn from our mistakes.
Shane Goudy is a senior at Northridge High School. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.