An estimated 350 million people — 1 out of every 12 men and 1 out of every 200 women — are colorblind. Those people face a host of challenges, from deciphering traffic lights to appreciating internationally acclaimed artwork.
Interestingly, Centre Pompidou, a museum of modern and contemporary art in Paris that hosts 3.5 million visitors annually, is taking steps to help its colorblind visitors see artwork as it is intended. That’s possible because the museum has partnered with EnChroma, an American company that produces eyewear for color blindness and low vision.
“Always concerned with offering the best visitor experience to all audiences, the Centre Pompidou is delighted to offer people with color blindness the possibility of trying EnChroma glasses, a very innovative device in the museum sector,” David Cascaro, director of the public division at Centre Pompidou, said in a statement.
“We are thrilled that one of the world’s foremost visionaries in arts and culture — the Centre Pompidou — is demonstrating its commitment to accessibility and inclusion for those with color vision deficiencies by loaning EnChroma glasses to guests,” said Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma, added. “The museum’s example will generate more awareness for the prevalence and effects of colorblindness, inspire other museums and organizations to follow its lead, and ultimately expand opportunities for colorblind people to more fully experience colorful, iconic artwork like never before.”
How The Glasses Work
People who aren’t colorblind generally see more than 1 million shades and hues of color. On the other hand, people who are color blind may only see an estimated 10 percent of those colors. Those who are red-green colorblind, for instance, have difficulty distinguishing between green and yellow, gray and pink, purple and blue, and red and brown.
Here’s why that happens. When white light, which contains all of the colors in the rainbow, enters the eye through the cornea, it then reaches wavelength-sensitive cells — known as cones — at the back of the eye. These three cones are sensitive to short wavelengths of light (seen as blue), medium wavelengths of light (seen as green), or long wavelengths of light (seen as red). Chemicals in the cones then trigger a reaction that sends information about the wavelengths to the brain, allowing you to perceive color, according to Mayo Clinic. But individuals with colorblindness generally have an “excessive overlap” between two of their cones, causing difficulty distinguishing between certain colors.
EnChroma’s optical lenses selectively filter wavelengths of light where the overlap of color sensitivity occurs. In other words, the lens technology increases the contrast between the red and green color signals so people who are colorblind can see more colors.
Helping People At Museums And Other Institutions
EnChroma sells its glasses, but because the company also advocates for accessibility, it also runs what it calls the EnChroma Color Accessibility Program. In this program, EnChroma donates one pair of its glasses for every pair an organization purchases. Nearly 200 public institutions, ranging from libraries and schools to national parks and more than 80 museums, are participating in the program.
The Centre Pompidou is the first museum in France to support the needs of colorblind patrons through the program. Other museums that loan patrons EnChroma glasses are the Gallerie d’Italia in Italy, the Chau Chak Wing Museum in Australia, Centraal Museum Utrecht in The Netherlands, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in the United States.
Learn And See More For Yourself
As an advocate for those who are colorblind, EnChroma offers numerous materials so teachers, parents, and students can learn more about colorblindness. Public organizations interested in participating in the EnChroma Program can email the company at email@example.com to learn more.
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