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Clin Exp Optom. 2004 Jul;87(4-5):258-75.

The handicap of abnormal colour vision.

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1
Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, VIC, Australia.

Abstract

All people with abnormal colour vision, except for a few mildly affected deuteranomals, report that they experience problems with colour in everyday life and at work. Contemporary society presents them with increasing problems because colour is now so widely used in printed materials and in computer displays. Equal opportunity law gives them protection against unfair discrimination in employment, so a decision to exclude a person from employment on the grounds of abnormal colour vision must now be well supported by good evidence and sound argument. This paper reviews the investigations that have contributed to understanding the nature and consequences of the problems they have. All those with abnormal colour vision are at a disadvantage with comparative colour tasks that involve precise matching of colours or discrimination of fine colour differences either because of their loss of colour discrimination or anomalous perception of metamers. The majority have problems when colour is used to code information, in man-made colour codes and in naturally occurring colour codes that signal ripeness of fruit, freshness of meat or illness. They can be denied the benefit of colour to mark out objects and organise complex visual displays. They may be unreliable when a colour name is used as an identifier. They are slower and less successful in search when colour is an attribute of the target object or is used to organise the visual display. Because those with the more severe forms of abnormal colour vision perceive a very limited gamut of colours, they are at a disadvantage in the pursuit and appreciation of those forms of art that use colour.

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