Most colour blind people will have stories similar to the one below which tells about the difficulties that can affect them in the workplace. Many will have problems in fully accessing information from all kinds of everyday workplace sources including the internet, documents and presentations, photographs, maps, charts and diagrams. Colour blind doctors can have problems in many areas including diagnosing rashes and inflammation. Driving causes issues too, particularly traffic lights at night, which can be impossible to distinguish from street lights in certain conditions. A colour blind hairdresser would struggle with colouring hair, a colour blind person working in a garden centre would not be able to spot berries or flowers without some difficulty. This list goes on…
A very entertaining description of the difficulties posed by being colour blind in everyday life can be found in this article written by Geoffrey Hope-Terry. This self-deprecating account gives people with normal colour vision a fantastic insight into problems which might also arise in the workplace.
Some colour blind doctors are so concerned about the problems which they can experience in some areas of medicine that they have set up a website to provide further advice and information to colour blind medical practitioners – see www.colourmed.com.
Dennis Overton runs the Colour Blind Awareness and Support Group in Australia. Put yourself in the position of a young colour blind person just starting a new job, by reading this extract from Dennis’s book ‘Colour Blindness: I See Red When You See Green’.
When I was about 18 years old, not long after I obtained my driving licence, I worked in the city for a large building developer. One day the General Manager came rushing into the office late for a meeting, throwing me some car keys and asking me to move the green pick-up he had parked in Pitt Street, to the car park. I went down the stairs and out onto Pitt Street and would you believe it, there must have been about 6 or 7 green-looking pick-ups, parked on either side of the road. I had only worked at the office for a few days therefore I was not able to tell the pick-up by other markings. I thought the only way out of this predicament was to try the keys in the doors of all the pick-ups that looked, well, greenish! The first one I tried was unsuccessful, so on I went to the second and tried that one. The second one did not open either and so on I trod to the third. Just as I put the keys into the third pick-up a hand grabbed me from behind and frightened the life out of me. No the key did not fit and yes, it was the real owner!
Whilst I was explaining to the owner that I was colour blind and what I was doing, up came two more gentlemen, one of whom I recognised as a parking policeman. The gentleman with the parking policeman was the owner of the second pick-up. He had seen me trying, as he thought, to break into his pick-up and went and found the parking policeman nearby.
So, here I am in the middle of the city trying to explain the situation and about my colour blindness, to the owners and the parking policeman. At this stage things looked grim and I could see myself taking a trip down town to the police station. My eyes were working overtime trying to catch a glimpse of the likely-looking pick-up which would prove my innocence. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw my boss who was just walking out of the office. I yelled out his name, thank goodness he heard me over the traffic noise and came over.
I explained the problem to my boss who confirmed that I was an employee but of course did not know of my affliction. There was only one way out and I asked my boss which of the pick-ups was the General Manager’s pick-up. My boss pointed to the pick-up about three cars up the street. So, a little procession followed up the street, my boss, two pick-up drivers, a parking policeman and me. The key did fit the pick-up door and then, when I looked up, everybody was dispersing, shaking their heads! Now my boss knew of my colour blindness and so I think did half of Sydney!
Whilst Dennis’s choice of career in the construction industry was not affected by his colour blindness, his story demonstrates that whatever career is followed colour blind people will come across unexpected difficulties caused by their condition at one stage or another.