RSS

The Bulletin

Colorblind? There's an app for that

Posting in Design

I get tired of the "there's an app for that" quip every time I write it, but it's true: there exist digital solutions for those people who suffer from colorblindness.

And there are many: in the U.S. alone, more than 10 million men have the condition, which despite its name actually makes it harder to distinguish between certain colors. (It's much less prevalent in women, owing to its X-chromosome origin.) That's obviously a problem for many people, from pilots to power computer users.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice look at several options that could lend a hand, including mobile applications that can enhance otherwise unseen colors and vision tests that "may allow mildly colorblind people to qualify for jobs that, until now, have been closed to them."

Briefly:

  • A new genetic test made by Genevolve Vision Diagnostics can identify the exact type of colorblindness someone has. (Why that matters: personalized treatment.)
  • A cure for colorblindness that involves genetic modification is in development at the University of Washington.
  • An augmented-reality app for Apple's iPhone and Google Android devices called DanKam converts all the reds and greens viewable by the device's embedded camera to versions that are easier for colorblind people to see.
  • There exist contact lenses and glasses for colorblind people that enhance colors, but they can be expensive, costing up to $700.
  • The tool Vischeck helps businesses (especially marketers and interactive designers) see what their websites look like to colorblind people by simulating certain deficiencies.
  • Videogames such as PopCap's Peggle and Zuma Blitz offer a colorblind mode that turn color-based indicators into shapes.
  • Finally, some financial data services companies (including Bloomberg, for its famous terminals) have begun to use symbols in addition to colors to indicate stock price direction.

Colorblindness is not usually the first thing people think of when they think of the term "accessibility," yet it's a real user interface challenge for everyone from vehicle manufacturers to hoteliers to electronics makers. It's good to see some progress being made on the issue.

Image: The numbers "16" and "9." (Testing Color Vision)

— By on November 5, 2012, 11:49 PM PST

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure