Color blindness is the result of a developmental fault of the color-sensing cones in the human eye. Types of color blindness vary, and statistics show that 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women experience some degree of colorblindness.
Tasks that sighted people often take for granted, such as matching clothes, choosing fruit, or applying appropriate shades of makeup are generally more difficult for those who are colorblind. There is no cure for this vision deficiency; however, innovative eyewear is providing new hope for millions of people with color blindness.
Don McPherson, an Alfred University scholar with a PhD in glass science, developed special glasses to protect surgeons’ eyes from lasers and to help them differentiate human tissue. Upon lending a pair to a colorblind friend during a game of ultimate Frisbee, he found that the glasses improved his friend’s color vision. McPherson teamed up with Andrew Schmeder, a UC Berkeley-trained mathematician, to concentrate on the development of glasses for colorblind individuals. With the help of grants, the two inventors created a company called Enchroma and worked to develop glasses to address red-green colorblindness. In 2012, the first pair became available to the public.
Enchroma lenses work by separating the overlapping red and green cones, helping to improve vision for people who have difficulty seeing those colors. When first introduced, the glasses were costly. Enchroma’s development team worked hard to successfully produce prescription-friendly, consumer-grade glasses at an average cost of $349 for adults and $269 for children. The company also offers certified refurbished glasses at discounted prices.
Enchroma glasses are not a cure for colorblindness, nor are they currently recommended for the color vision tests required for certain jobs. Rather, the new lens technology works as an assistive device to enable the wearer to make clearer distinctions between colors without the compromise of accuracy. The company’s brilliant “marriage of color vision science and optical technology” has delivered tears of happiness to those introduced to the world of colors.