Color Blindness Special Needs Factsheet
What Teachers Should Know
Color blindness is caused by problems in the color-detecting nerve cells located in the back of the eye, called cones. As a result, some people have trouble telling the difference between red and green (the most common kind of color blindness), and between blue and yellow. Achromatopsia is a rare a form of color blindness in which people can’t see any colors — they only see shades of gray.
Symptoms of color blindness usually aren’t noticed until children start learning the names of colors. Kids and teens who are color blind see shapes, lines, and everything that anyone else can, they just don’t think about certain colors the way others do.
People who are color blind see normally in other ways and can do normal things, such as drive. They just learn to respond to the way traffic signals light up, knowing that the red light is generally on top and green is on the bottom. Some people can use special contact lenses and glasses to help them see some color differences, but there is no cure for color blindness.
Students who are color blind may:
- be unable to tell the difference between certain colors or shades of similar colors
- have trouble with certain assignments or projects that require them to use color
- be sensitive to light in the classroom and need seating accommodations
- feel self-conscious or frustrated about their color blindness
- be at risk for teasing or bullying because of color blindness
What Teachers Can Do
Getting to know and understand what color blind students can and cannot see — from parents or guardians, other teachers, and the student themselves — will help you understand and meet their needs much better.
Ways to help a student with color blindness include:
- writing in black on a whiteboard instead of using colors (or using white chalk on the blackboard instead of colored chalk)
- making copies of handouts with a high black/white contrast, and not on colored paper
- writing out the names of colors if they are relevant to instruction (yellow sun, green frog, etc.)
- making sure art supplies or other supplies with colors are appropriately labeled
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014