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An estimated 350 million people – 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women – are color blind. These people face many challenges, from deciphering traffic lights to appreciating internationally recognized works of art.
Interestingly, the Center Pompidou, a museum of modern and contemporary art in Paris that hosts 3.5 million visitors a year, is taking steps to help its blind visitors see the works of art as they were intended. This is possible because the museum has partnered with EnChroma, an American company that produces glasses for color blindness and low vision.
“Always aiming to provide the best visitor experience for all audiences, the Center Pompidou is delighted to offer people with color blindness the opportunity to try EnChroma glasses, a very innovative device in the museum sector,” said David Cascaro , director of the public department at The Pompidou Center, said in a statement.
“We are thrilled that one of the world’s leading visionaries in arts and culture – the Center Pompidou – is demonstrating its commitment to accessibility and inclusion for people with color vision deficiency by lending EnChroma glasses to visitors,” said Erik Ritchie, CEO by EnChroma. added. “The museum’s example will create more awareness of the prevalence and effects of color blindness, inspire other museums and organizations to follow suit, and ultimately expand opportunities for colorblind people to more fully experience colorful, iconic works of art like never before.” .
How the glasses work
People who are not color blind generally see more than 1 million hues and shades of color. On the other hand, people who are color blind may only see 10 percent of these colors. Those with red-green color blindness, for example, have difficulty distinguishing between green and yellow, gray and pink, purple and blue, and red and brown.
Here’s why this happens. When white light, which contains all the colors of 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 wavelength information to the brain, allowing you to perceive color, according to the Mayo Clinic. But colorblind people generally have an “excessive overlap” between two of their cones, causing difficulty in distinguishing between certain colors.
EnChroma optical lenses selectively filter the wavelengths of light where color sensitivity overlap occurs. In other words, lens technology increases the contrast between red and green color signals so that people who are color blind can see more colors.
Helping people in museums and other institutions
EnChroma sells its glasses, but because the company also supports accessibility, it also runs what it calls the EnChroma Color Accessibility Program. In this program, EnChroma donates a pair of its glasses for every pair purchased by an organization. Nearly 200 public institutions, from libraries and schools to national parks and more than 80 museums, participate in the program.
The Center Pompidou is the first museum in France to support the needs of the color blind through the program. Other museums lending EnChroma glasses to patrons include the Gallerie d’Italia in Italy, the Chau Chak Wing Museum in Australia, the 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 with color blindness, EnChroma offers numerous materials so that teachers, parents and students can learn more about color blindness. Public organizations interested in participating in the EnChroma Program can email the company at [email protected] to learn more.
You can learn more about EnChroma and even take a test to see if you are color blind on its website.
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