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About Colorblind/Color Vision Deficiency
Color Vision Deficiency (CVD) is the inability to distinguish between some colors and shades. Most people with this condition can identify some colors. Few people are totally "color blind." Color filters, such as a special red contact lens worn on one eye or prescription glasses may be used to help some people with a color deficiency. In addition, talking products are available that will scan a color and announce a description of the color (originally designed for individuals who are blind).
Colorblind/Color Vision Deficiency and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Accommodating Employees with Colorblind/Color Vision Deficiency
People with color vision deficiency may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people who have have color vision deficiency will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Distinguishing Colors: Individuals with color vision deficiency may have difficulty distinguishing various colors. This deficiency exists on a spectrum, with few people being completely unable to see color. Performing job tasks that require employees to differentiate between colors, such as decorating cakes or assembling parts, may be challenging for those with color vision deficiency.
- Prescribed glasses for color discrimination
- Colored acetate sheets
- Assistant to identify colors such as a volunteer or co-worker
- Apps or devices to identify colors
Situations and Solutions:
The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.
A federal employee who needed to work around hazardous materials needed to identify hazardous materials by means of color coded labels.
He also needed to respond appropriately to colored lights. A JAN consultant discussed use of a handheld color identifier to identify the labels and also suggested that the employee could check with an ophthalmologist to see if they were a candidate for special lenses designed to help with improved color detection. The employer purchased a handheld color identifier and ask the employee if they would be willing to check with an ophthalmologist to see if color enhancing lenses or another solution could assist them in responding appropriately to colored lights. He was temporarily excused from the task involving lights until he could check with his ophthalmologist.
A maintenance director at a residential building had color vision deficiency and needed to repaint and touch up the paint in various rooms.
He had particular difficulty distinguishing between white paint and light green paint. As a result, he sometimes found it hard to choose the correct shade of paint for touchups and noticing when he had missed a spot while painting. A JAN consultant provided information about handheld color identifiers and apps for smart phones that could help with color identification. The consultant also discussed that a coworker might be able to help the maintenance director identify the correct can of paint before starting a task and could also help with checking for spots that he may have missed. The employer chose to restructure the maintenance director's job to reduce the amount of painting for which he was responsible, and also allowed him to seek assistance from a coworker to ensure use of the correct shade of paint and to check for missed spots.
A preschool teacher needed to read books aloud to students during circle time.
She had difficulty describing and talking about the pictures in the books because of her color vision deficiency. She wanted to be able to describe the pictures accurately in order to help the children learn their colors. She was sometimes able to get help from a teaching assistant, but wanted a more independent solution. A JAN consultant discussed free and low-cost apps for identifying colors and suggested that she use an app to familiarize herself with the colors used on various pages in advance. The teacher also made index cards with notes about the pictures that she wanted to describe and taped them to the back cover of each book while reading.
An engineer with color vision deficiency needed to work on multiple projects.
The engineering firm where he worked printed materials related to each project on a different color of paper in order to help everyone stay organized. The engineer was not able to distinguish colors, and did not find the system useful. A consultant from JAN discussed numerous accommodation ideas including organizing the paperwork differently, handwriting the color or first letter of the color in the upper right corner of the master copy so that it would be there on all photocopies, and providing a handheld color identifier to the engineer so that he could use it identify the color of each paper on his own. The employer provided a high-end handheld color identifier.
A worker in a manufacturing plant had color vision deficiency and used corrective lenses that helped her to distinguish color during day-to-day tasks.
Unfortunately, they did not fit well under the safety goggles that she was required to wear at work. She requested that her employer provide prescription eye goggles with the same type of lenses for use at work. The employer provided her with customized prescription goggles to wear at work.