It wasn’t until my second year at university that I discovered I had a form of colour blindness.
I discovered this when my supervisor told me to click on the green folder on the screen. But I couldn’t see any green folders…
So, being the adept computing device user that I am, I naturally found myself staring at the colour blindness Wikipedia page. I ended up doing these “Ishihara tests” designed to test your blindness to colour. Sure enough, the tests showed I was actually colour blind — albeit mildly — and that I have the most common condition called ‘deutans’ (otherwise known as red-green colour blindness).
Until this point, I had assumed that people with colour blindness don’t see any colours at all (monochromacy). That is, I thought people with colour blindness continuously saw the world as if it’s a showing of Casablanca.
So how does all this relate to learning and teaching?
This discovery helped explain why I’ve had trouble viewing some graphs. It was hard for me to distinguish between colours!
Given that a significant portion are affected by some form of colour blindness (around 8% of people with Northern European ancestry have deutans — mostly males), we can take some steps to make teaching material such as graphs and diagrams more legible.
One easy way is to use a tool like Color Oracle (download the app), which simulates colour blindness conditions. Then you can assess legibility quite easily.
Some further tips include: (see figures 4 and 5 of this document for more inspiration):
Use different shapes and different kinds of lines
Apply different background patterns/textures appropriately-
Textures used in shapes or charts, allow for greater distinction between shapes.
There are known colour combinations that are difficult for people with colour blindness to distinguish. Click on the link for more information.
Check if the material also makes sense in a black-and-white context, and that there is enough contrast
Happy chart making!
Thanks to Fidel Fernando for his help with the charts!