Every workplace with more than twelve male employees is likely to have at least one colour blind member of staff. Many of these employees will face challenges in fully accessing information from all kinds of everyday workplace sources including the websites, documents, presentations, spreadsheets photographs, maps, charts and diagrams. Some people will struggle with machinery and equipment.
Colour blindness can have an impact on many types of jobs which you might not initially think would cause problems. Employers and businesses should therefore consider their processes and procedures, not only to support colour blind colleagues but if they are producing information – brochures, presentations, equipment etc. then these outputs need to be suitable for everyone and 4.5% of their consumers/investors etc will also be colour blind.
If you are colour blind DON’T LET BEING COLOUR BLIND PUT YOU OFF YOUR CHOSEN CAREER! See the Art page for links to colour blind illustrators, for example.
Colour blind pilots
Yes, they DO exist! Follow this link to the Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association (in Australia) to find out more. www.cvdpa.com
Colour blind doctors/nurses
Colour blind doctors and nurses can experience problems in some areas of medicine. Whilst in most countries colour blindness isn’t a bar to practicing medicine, if you are colour blind and you’re planning a career in medicine it’s useful to know more about the kinds of issues which could be a challenge. Listen to our podcast with Dr Euan Lawson, who is himself a colour blind doctor, here Blokeology Podcast Episode 053.
Colour blind train drivers
Train drivers with colour blindness are very rare, mainly due to the use of coloured signals across most railway systems. However, you can become a Tube train driver! Watch this clip from BBC Breakfast for more information.
The Armed Forces
Many roles in the Armed Forces are off limits so it may be worth getting a colour vision test before starting the application process. Usually the medical where recruits have their colour vision checked are held right at the end of the application process. Failing the medical on colour blindness grounds is quite common and can be a huge shock.
Police, the Fire Service and Paramedics
In the UK you can definitely become a police officer but it’s unlikely you’ll be allowed to become a firearms officer.
The UK Fire Service does not generally admit colour blind recruits but this is under review so it’s worth checking with your local Fire Authority.
Paramedics are definitely permitted in the UK although colour blindness may bring extra challenges.
Starting a new job?
Wherever possible aim to tell your new employer about your colour blindness before you start.
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 can expect to face unexpected difficulties caused by their condition at one stage or another.