Colour blindness, on top of everything else! What next?

Guest post from Kathryn Albany-Ward, Founder, Colour Blind Awareness.

Just over five years ago we decided to move our then seven-year-old son to a new school where he would be able to play sport every day. He is a very sporty child and was looking forward to it but within a week he was no longer keen to go to school.

Nothing strange about that you say – plenty of children would get cold feet in a new school. But the unusual thing was his reason – he said he couldn’t see who was in his team for games. This was unexpected! Even more so because his kit included a reversible rugby top – olive green on one side and maroon on the other. In-depth quizzing revealed an astonishing fact – our son couldn’t see the difference between the two colours!

Here’s why.

rugby shirts
Normal colour vision

 

Rugby shirts seen with deuteranopia
Deuteranopia

I didn’t initially consider these colours to be red and green so colour blindness wasn’t on my radar. Only after other incidents dragged themselves up from the depths of my subconscious, such as the time he couldn’t tell the difference between lilac and sky blue fabric conditioner in the supermarket and the trip to the fruit farm where he picked only unripe strawberries, did I finally click that he might be colour blind. Wow, he managed to learn all his colours without us, his nursery school or four primary school teachers ever having a clue he couldn’t actually see them. How did he do that?

It turns out my son has a severe colour vision deficiency (CVD) and will never be able to see some colours. Here’s what he sees:

Pencils
Normal vision

 

Pencils seen with deuteranopia
Deuteranopia

Frustratingly his new school had no idea how to support him and I discovered that not only was there no meaningful information on the internet then, but also that colour blindness is not considered to be a Special Educational Need so there is no official guidance for teachers. Perplexingly, teachers are not trained in how to support colour blind pupils, even though 1 in 12 boys (and 1 in 200 girls) are affected – that’s one in every classroom! I found this shocking. Within a week I realised that my son was at a definite disadvantage, not just in the classroom but in everyday situations, so I set about raising awareness of colour blindness myself.

Having set up the Colour Blind Awareness website to help other parents and to provide information for schools, it took me another couple of years to realise the plight of children with CVD who also have other SENs to contend with.

I was suddenly struck by the idea of a bright non-verbal child, perhaps with severe cerebral palsy, trapped and unable to tell their carers that he can’t tell the difference between the red and green corners of his simple encoding board. I was horrified at that thought and immediately contacted Scope.  I am delighted to say that this guidance on CVD is now available on the Scope website.

Please contact Colour Blind Awareness if you have any queries and we will do our utmost to support you.