I am colour blind. I confess it…
…or rather, I am deuteranomalous. Not as bad as a deuteranope, but still chromatically challenged. Most of the deuteranomalous population is male, because the defective gene is carried on the X chromosome, of which we guys only get one copy. Women get two X’s, and having one copy of the normal gene means normal colours. Still, about one female in a hundred doesn’t appreciate colours. Canada has one of the highest rates of abnormal colour vision, with every tenth male being unable to appreciate colours to the fullest, most often in the red-green end of the spectrum.
Take me for example. Experience has taught me to purchase clothing with only colours I can see, or to get a normal colour-visioned friend to pick out matches. Still, in the past I have been known to venture out in green pants and a red shirt, causing unsuspecting motorists to stop, thinking they had come to a traffic light…
I had grown to accept this as a minor inconvenience, though in my career as a physician, being unable to appreciate colours to the fullest could sometimes complicate my diagnosis of rashes and inflammatory conditions.
You can understand why I was intrigued when I read about the Enchroma glasses, which promised to help remedy my colour issues. They are not cheap. My spectacles set me back $461 US. But I never miss an opportunity to experience the world in a new light, so I treated myself to the Apollo style, aviator frame Enchromas. There are less expensive models with the Gamma currently featured on sale for $329 US… a bit more affordable but still not cheap.
When my Enchromas arrived, I resisted the urge to rip the box open and try them right away. Instead I arranged to meet my girlfriend the next day in the Public Gardens in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of the finest Victorian gardens in North America, in August they sport beds and thickets of fluorescent flowers ranging the spectrum of the rainbow—a perfect testing ground for the Enchroma system.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. My thoughts ranged from total disappointment to a blinding blur of colours I had only vaguely suspected existed.
Since my problems range in the pink and purple shades, I stationed myself next to an appropriately-coloured bed of flowers, and ripped open the cardboard box that the specs had arrived in. I donned the glasses with trepidation.
Enchromas come with three types of shading. There is a style that is only usable outdoors for sunglasses, those usable both indoors and outdoors, and a third, which is most suited for indoor use. The indoor-outdoor style seemed to suit my needs.
I had seen videos of people crying with emotion when they put on their Enchromas. I did not. My jaw, however, did drop. I can say that the effect was powerful, but more subtle for me. At first everything seemed very vivid. I can see all the colours of the spectrum, but my deuteranomaly left me unable to appreciate subtle shades and nuances. Crayon red and green shades were visible to me. But what I discovered, as a I ambled through the gardens, was that pinks, oranges, and purples took on a luminescent quality I had never before appreciated. Passersby must have thought me stoned, or a bit strange, as I ogled roses, dahlias, lilies, phlox, hydrangeas, even thistles, oohing and aahing. The shades of green in the trees and grass were amazing and totally unexpected.
After a couple of hours of chromatic bliss, I made my way back to the car and drove home. Wow! I stopped and stared at the green and red of the traffic light. Sure, we colour blind can tell the red and the green apart at intersections both by position and the shred of colour we can perceive… but these tones were amazing.
While for me, the benefits of the indoor-outdoor version of Enchroma were mainly aesthetic, I wondered if the indoor style of Enchroma would have practical applications in my medical practice. I might order a pair of those, too, and give them a try. Stay tuned for my next article.
NOTE: These lenses do not work for every type of colour blindness. Please read the information on the Enchroma site carefully, and take their colour vision test first to assure they are right for your type of colour deficiency.
All photos courtesy of George Burden and Stella van der Lugt – All rights reserved.