Some Frustrations

Most colorblind people will, when asked, say that their condition doesn’t affect them much. I suppose either they don’t think about it much, they are just being polite, or they are only very slightly color-deficient… because this is just a partial list of things that really bug me:


I’m completely unable to read charts that use color as a legend. That is to say, just about every chart in every medium is unintelligible. There are many alternatives to color: line weight/type//shape/markers, gray scale, texture/pattern, in-line labels, etc. Please don’t use or support graphs that go from one dark color to a light version of that color to a different light color to a dark version of that color. Instead, simply go linear from light to dark.

Clothing – 1 

I am so tired of asking sales associates what color something is, then having to respond to their perplexed expression, explaining why I’m asking, then hearing them excitedly request that I identify the color of a nearby article of clothing… just to prove that I am indeed in need of assistance.

Clothing – 2 

I often can’t tell when my clothing is dirty or stained. My wife tries to be diplomatic when, before I leave the house, she points out a specific instance of socially undesirable wardrobe discoloration. 

Clothing – 3

I mostly wear black, white, and/or gray, as I am completely incapable of matching complimentary colors. I am quite certain that often I wear articles of clothing that are neither gray nor complimentary, but seldom does anyone have the courage to tell me. 

Cooking – 1

When cooking meat, I always have a thermometer handy. With exceptions such as sashimi, tartare and carpaccio, raw meat is generally frowned upon, and leaves my guests less than confident in my culinary skills. 

Cooking – 2

The recipe says, “Cook until golden brown.” It might as well say, “Cook until burnt, then discard, start over… and stop a little earlier next time.” 


An inability to properly apply crayons to paper is a common early childhood frustration. Some colors are clearly labeled: “Red”, “Orange”, “Blue”, etc. However, many are given useless, names: “Bittersweet”, “Mango Tango”, “Caribbean Green”, etc. Some crayons display useful modifiers: “Red Orange”, “Middle Green”, “Light Blue”, etc. It wouldn’t cost extra to always print a descriptive color name somewhere else on the label. This would reduce the embarrassment of aspiring young artists that have inadvertently created abstract art.

Driving – 1 

I quite often find myself frustrated that the key or fob isn’t allowing me into my car, then realizing, with an embarrassed glance around, that this isn’t my car. Right shape, but not even close to the right color. 

Driving – 2 

Useless directions by a well-intentioned passenger to me while driving: “Turn right at the green sign”, “red car”, “man in the blue jacket”, etc. After several wrong turns, said passenger hopefully learns to provide more useful instructions. 

Driving – 3 

With the increase of digital control panels in cars, tiny color indicators are often used as the primary indicators of warm/cold or off/on. I’ve had a car for years in which I can’t tell if the AC or heat is on. After toggling controls multiple times, I inevitably surrender to shivering or baking.

Driving – 4 

I often pass up parking spaces when I can’t tell if the curb is simply a bit dirty, or might be painted some forbidding red, green, or yellow color. Or, I park the car, get out, notice the curb appears to be discolored, get back in, and move the car, only to see another car parked there moments later.

Driving – 5 

In my case, yellow and green traffic lights appear identical, but I can usually differentiate these from the slightly darker red lights. During the day, I use the position of the lights to tell the difference between a green and yellow light. However, this becomes a literal nightmare after dark. Not only can I not see the position of a light within a signal, but streetlights appear the same color as yellow and green signal lights, often creating a field of indiscernible indicators. In this era of LED lighting, there are simple and inexpensive solutions to this problem. Just make the red light an “X” and the yellow light a triangle. Or… make the yellow light blink, as some countries have done.


My new gadget is trying to communicate. At least… the manual says its solitary LED should be changing color to tell me what’s going on inside. Did I miss it? I unplug it & try again. I stare intently at the tiny light. It conveys only indifference to my increasing stress. 


I joined a CrossFit group. During my first session the trainer pointed, “The green kettlebells would be best for you”. Later she told me, “Red bands have least resistance. Then purple. Blue are the hardest… you probably want those.” Flattering, but not helpful. 

Forms – 1 

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as filling out a form that requires me to use a black or blue pen, when there’s nobody around to ask if the pen I am holding does indeed dispense black or blue ink. 

Forms – 2 

I can’t count the number of times I have been required to sign forms where the places to sign, initial, and/or date have been highlighted via a marker that dispensed yellow ink… completely invisible to me. 

Games – 1 

I can’t tell the difference between pieces, card colors, or other indicators in board games. I must concentrate more earnestly than I would ordinarily classify as fun.

Games – 2

I can’t play most computer games. Color is the simplest form of communication when pixel space is limited. For this reason, it is almost always a primary indicator of status and differentiation. Even most games that attempt to accommodate colorblindness either fail completely for certain types of colorblindness, or overlook key situations, such as when a status symbol is positioned over a colored object, obscuring most of the otherwise-distinct underlying color (shade). And, even when color independent design is well implemented, the extra time it takes a colorblind person to interpret and act upon a shape or symbol, versus the object’s color, usually determines the difference between success and failure.

Gardening – 1 

There’s something very rewarding about caring for a garden, except that I can’t tell when the plants are unhealthy, or dead. Green, yellow and brown leaves look alike to me.

Gardening – 2

When planning a garden, I can’t tell what color flowers are produced by each plant, let alone determine which plants will have the most complimentary hues.

Gifts – 1 

My wife likes purple. Her hair is partly purple. Her clothes are mostly purple. Her jewelry is purple. I imagine that many of our walls and linens are purple. We never argue about color. This is all very prudent, until I need to select an appropriately hued gift for her. 

Gifts – 2  

I do not enjoy wrapping presents. I experience a visceral stress when trying to distinguish appropriate holiday colored paper or select a ribbon that coordinates with said paper. 

Gifts – 3  

Most people seem to like certain colors more than others. This is even more true in the case of mixing colors. I am overwhelmed when trying to select appropriately colored gifts for people who care about colors… in other words, almost anyone.

Health – 1 

I can’t tell if I or my children have sunburn… until it’s too late. 

Health – 2

If I seem to ignore a sudden change in your complexion… to red… or white… or blue, please know that my insensitivity is nothing personal. I’m told that these are indicators that something is awry, but they are completely invisible to me.

Health – 3

I can’t tell if my, my family’s, or my pet’s vomit, urine, or stool contains blood. This has almost killed me… twice… so far… and once delayed me driving my very ill dog to the emergency vet.

Health – 4

I can’t see certain rashes, insect bites, infections, etc. on people. Even worse on pets. 

Health – 5 

I’ve often ignored what I thought to be dirt on my skin, only to discover later that it was blood where I unknowingly had scratched myself. By then I’ve usually stained one or more articles of clothing.

Health – 6 

Upon scheduling a medical appointment, I received via email these directions to the appropriate department: “Take the blue elevators to the third floor.”

Health – 7 

I occasionally suffer from allergies that turn my eyes red, which makes me look either tired, drugged, or frightening. Allergy drops can disguise the problem, but that only works if I know my eyes are red before someone tells me that I look exhausted.


In the past I have had many aquariums, and a swimming pool. The water quality for these containers needs to be regularly tested. This is mostly done via color-coded tabs or drops of liquid, yielding color fluctuations that are maddeningly invisible to the colorblind. 

Home Improvement – 1 

Even simple electrical wiring projects are risky.

Home Improvement – 2

Because writing the name of the color is apparently much too labor intensive, the industry standard means to designate the color of paint in a can is to slop some of the paint on a section of the top or label. Efficient, but useless to some of us. 

Home Improvement – 3 

If I pause, then come back to painting walls, I usually can’t tell what area I’ve already covered, regardless of whether the new color is the same as the old one. This is an effective, albeit unintentional, means to get out of doing this chore. 


The entirety of verbal instruction I heard at the end of a recent podcast on how to subscribe: “Click the purple icon on your iPhone.” 

Interactions – 1 

I can’t tell when I am blushing… the thought of which can make my face feel flushed. Similarly, I can’t tell when someone else is blushing… a huge disadvantage when trying to embarrass them.

Interactions – 2

The great extent to which people enhance themselves with make-up is lost on me. To my eyes, natural is quite fine and generally preferable.

Interactions – 3

I have difficulty determining peoples’ hair color. Blond & gray look the same. Red & brown look the same. I was in college before I learned that redheads, stunningly, have red hair and that people’s hair doesn’t simply turn blond as they age. I thought redheads were given this label only because of their freckles (which I also assume are red… maybe?). 

Interactions – 4

Nearly every day, someone I’m interacting with casually conveys a color-centric message. For example, “that jogger is dressed for Christmas”, “those flowers are beautiful”, “her hair is wild”, etc. While these are primarily rhetorical statements, I must guess as to their meaning. Choosing whether to question the specific nature of the comment, or to pretend agreement, is awkward. To ask for clarification feels as though I am scolding them for forgetting about my colorblindness. To ignore my incomprehension feels insincere, however, this is my most common reaction.

Interactions – 5 

After moving to a new home, a neighbor came to the door and introduced herself, telling me, “I live in the gray house across the street.” That didn’t narrow it down much, but I wasn’t inclined to make this first meeting awkward by asking for clarification. Instead, I just peeked through the window as she left to see which house she returned to.

Interactions – 6 

Walking on the beach with a friend. He pointed at a jogger that passed us, “He’s dressed for Christmas.” His comment did not compute. Just a guy in jogging clothes, retreating in the distance. I said, “I’m not sure what that means… umm… maybe he’s wearing red or green?” He looked at me… not quite able to process what I had asked. After an awkward pause, I said, “Remember… I’m colorblind.” Thereafter I berated myself. Should I have simply laughed at his comment, rather than request clarification? I had only made him feel bad.

Interactions – 7

On a recent quarterly trash disposal day, I pulled my car up to the man responsible for sending me to the correct place to hand over my precious junk. Once I described my hoard, he told me to pull up to the yellow truck. There were several trucks lined up. I said, “Sorry, I’m colorblind… which truck?” He paused, then said more slowly and loudly, “The   yellow   one!” Upon observing my continued confusion, he glanced at the line forming behind me, obviously struggling to find a means to overcome my obtusity. Fortunately, a man in front of one of the trucks began waving his hands, beckoning me. Clearly relieved, the greeter pointed and said, “Over there!”

Movies – 1 

Sometimes a director films a scene, or even a whole movie, in black and white to convey special meaning. I’ve sometimes found out about such scenes years after seeing them, having been completely oblivious to this aspect of their artfulness. 

Movies – 2

Color is often used to evoke the nature of a movie scene. Blood being the most common example. The emotional impact, and sometimes the actual meaning of such a scene, can be lost on me. Is that water, gasoline, urine, oil, blood, goo, etc.? 

Shopping – 1 

Most online shops designate a product’s color choices in tiny little boxes. This is completely useless to me. Sometimes that’s the only indicator of color. Other times they will display a color name when I click on, or pass the cursor over, the box. However, many sadistic companies describe their product “colors” using sexy, but completely useless labels such as “sandlewood”, “rattan”, “sable”, “sand”, “metal”, “slate”, “ponderosa pine”, “juniper”, etc.

Shopping – 2 

I picked out a six-pack of beer at our local store. The friendly checker remarked on the brewery, and asked, “Have you tried their latest brew… the one with the green label?” I responded, “Uhh… well… I don’t think I have.” It wasn’t worth explaining. 

Shopping – 3

Selecting ripe fruit is challenging. Bananas are particularly discriminatory.

Shopping – 4 

Product packaging often uses color to stand out or convey key features. Absent this filter, packages & brands tend to blur together. I so regularly find myself standing for an embarrassingly long time in front of a small section of shelving, scanning hopelessly for a particular product.

Shopping – 5 

Many retail products are available in multiple colors. All too often, the color of the packaging, or visibility to some part of the product itself, is the only determinant of the product’s color. Seldom is there a word anywhere on the package to clearly describe that color. 

Shopping – 6 

After picking out some furniture at a major retailer, there was a sign in the waiting area stating that I could pick up my stuff when the order number appears in the green section of the screen. There were multiple shades on the monitors, representing some unknowable status. I couldn’t tell which one was green. Instead, I had to watch the monitors for a while, then match number color changes to people walking up to the counter to pick up their order.

Shopping – 7 

When paying for a package at the post office the woman at the counter provided me with this useful instruction, “Okay, please confirm that the address on the screen is correct and press the green button.” 

Sports – 1 

Despite recent improvements in sport uniform colors, I still have difficulty telling teams apart. That is nothing compared to how colorblind players are affected. Tiny variations in reaction time differentiate good players from great players.

Sports – 2

Colors are used in televised sports to indicate the status of something on the field. In baseball the indicators of which bases are occupied often use one color for empty, another for occupied. Is there one player on first, or one on second and third?

Sports – 3

Teams in paintball, football, or other group sports, are often differentiated by the color of vests or flags being worn. I’ve both been overly hesitant, and overly aggressive in such situations. Neither mistake makes me an appealing teammate. 


Okay, so what’s the story with colors being warm or cool? It’s hard enough to tell one color from another, let alone how they make me feel. Colornormals are so silly. 

Travel – 1 

While shapes and sizes of luggage do vary, lacking color as an efficient filter makes it more difficult to spot and track the right suitcase among the frenzied crowd at baggage claim. 

Travel – 2 

Upon inserting a key card into a hotel door lock, I’m told that red means no, green means yes, yellow means something is awry. They all look the same to me. Damned if I know why the door isn’t opening. 

Travel – 3

Landing at Heathrow Airport the pilot told passengers to follow the purple signs to get to connecting flights. That was the totality of his directions. Upon exiting the plane, all the signs looked purple, or rather, none of the signs looked purple. 

Travel – 4 

When traveling, it is delightful to notice how different things are from what one is used to. All too often, my companions express their excitement along these lines: “Look at all the shades of green!”, “The ocean is so much bluer here!”, etc. Upon noticing my silence, they laugh nervously, and say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry… you can’t see it, but…”, followed by an attempt to describe the wondrous scene with words that aren’t colors, which diminishes their thrill, and makes me feel like a downer.

Travel – 5 

The subways in London make it easy to get around… assuming one is able to distinguish the colors, which are the primary designations. Yes… most lines also use shapes, but not nearly everywhere. 

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