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Author Showcase

Summer 2004 Featured Author, Arlene Evans, R.N.

RT: You’ve written two books on color vision deficiency (CVD), or color blindness, Seeing Color: It’s My Rainbow, Too for children and Color is in the Eye of the Beholder for older readers. How did you become interested in this subject?

Arlene: I was a school nurse for many years, during which time I realized how common this disorder is and the challenges some people face because of it. I’ve written many articles on the subject which have been published in a variety of magazines; however, the articles I wrote were always for adults. I searched unsuccessfully for literature for children and other young people. Finally, I wrote Seeing Color: It’s My Rainbow, Too, published in September 2003; and Color is in the Eye of the Beholder, published in February 2004.

RT: How widespread is this disorder?

Arlene: Worldwide, about 8 percent of males (1 in 12) and half a percent of females (1 in 200) have CVD to some degree. The condition is more common in those of European descent, but occurs in all races and nationalities. The deficiency is usually termed “red-green colorblindness” because red and green, plus other colors with red and/or green in them are usually affected.

RT: You say “to some degree.” What do you mean by that?

Arlene: A dozen or more people who are color deficient may all see color a little differently. The degrees of the condition are mild, moderate or severe. Those who are mildly or very mildly affected may not realize they see colors differently until they take a test for color vision. Moderately affected individuals generally know something is wrong, but may have to take a test to discover exactly what. Those who are severely affected may be challenged daily.

RT: Why do you use color vision deficiency or CVD rather than the more popular colorblind?

Arlene: The word colorblind is misleading. People with CVD are not blind to color. They may see some colors weakly and confuse some colors, but they do see color. Their worlds are simply not as colorful as most people’s. There is a very rare condition called achromatopsia in which people see no color. It is accompanied by other eye disorder, whereas CVD has no associated eye disorders. This is explained in Color is in the Eye of the Beholder. Webster’s dictionary gives two definitions to “colorblind”: one is achromatopsia, and the other is CVD. Who am I to argue with Webster’s?

RT: How might CVD affect early education?

Arlene: Pre-school and primary grades emphasize color heavily. Some math and reading programs are even based on color. This may be confusing for some children who don‘t see color well. Two percent of males don’t see red or green at all, so have more difficulty. Teachers, or parents of homeschoolers, need to take this into consideration.

Several adults have told me that the first color-related problem they recall having was with crayons in kindergarten. They simply couldn’t tell them apart. They eventually solved that problem by learning to read the color name on the crayon wrapper! It’s important for children to be tested early for CVD in order to avoid such difficulties. For instance, children can be taught the first letter of color names to aid in identification of crayons; teachers will need to consider alternate teaching methods for some children when they use programs based on color. If a child hasn’t been tested and is having learning difficulties, he or she should certainly be tested.

RT: Are there signs parents might be alerted to, especially if CVD runs in their families?

Arlene: Yes. Does your child enjoy puzzles, games and optical illusions based on color? Does your child ever confuse blue and purple? Green and brown? Does he mistake pink for white? Confusing these colors is common in children with CVD. It’s important not to “drill” children on colors. If a child sees green and brown as the same color, no amount of drilling will change that. It’s better for parents to say, “I like that green shirt” rather than ask, “What color is your shirt?” Other suggestions are in my book for children Seeing Color: It’s My Rainbow, Too. If you have concerns about your child’s color vision, consult your school nurse or your eye care specialist. Tests for color vision are accurate, simple, quick snd needless to say, painless.

RT: How does CVD affect people in their everyday lives?

Arlene: How do you decide what to wear? How do you tell if your hamburger is done? How do you decide when fruit is ripe? How would you detect a sunburn? Or your child’s sore throat? Or describe a rash? Or decorate your home? As a matter of fact, how would you decorate yourself? My hairdresser told me of a woman who came to her with a gastly color of red hair. She admitted she colored it herself and was red-green colorblind. I’ve since been in contact with this woman. She read Color is in the Eye of the Beholder and said she related to everything in the book. “It all happened to me!” It’s in the working world that young people and adults find their most perplexing problems. Some jobs require accurate color vision while others may not require it, but those with CVD may have challenges. For instance, would an account recognize a number written in red? Would a physician or nurse be able to examine an eardrum? Would someone who picks fruit mistake a red for a green strawberry?

RT: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Arlene: The books I’ve written are not just for people with CVD, but for everyone. I hope that young people with and without CVD will gain understanding, which I find sadly lacking, even in families with the disorder. Also, I hope that people who have typical color vision will understand that the condition is more than a “curiosity.” They need to know that not seeing color as most people do can present real problems for real people.


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