Local library wants to ‘Color Your World’

Glasses use patented lens technology to reveal color to colorblind

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Remember the box of Crayola crayons with a sharpener? You just flipped open the lid to see 64 different colors with names like spring green, violet red and indigo. Unless you happened to be 1 in 12 men or 1 in 200 women who have color vision deficiency. For the colorblind, the colorful box is viewed through a sepia filter resulting in shades of dull brown, tan and yellow.

An estimated 11,000 St. Johns County residents have color vision deficiency in varying degrees. Thanks to a generous $13,000 “Color Your World” grant award from the St. Augustine based nonprofit Barbara A. Kay Foundation, through the Friends of the Main Library St. Augustine, the St. Johns County Public Library System is able to offer a new way to see the world with EnChroma receptor glasses available for checkout to library patrons. The unique glasses use a patented lens technology to show the colorblind brilliant color for the first time.

To launch the program, library staff invited seven residents to try the glasses, which are available in sunglasses for outdoors and lighter lenses for indoors. Drew Howell, a sophomore at Allen D. Nease High School, had a pair of the sunglasses but lost them. Instead of replacing the sunglasses, Drew asked his mother to wait until the newer indoor version was released. He tried them for the first time at the library.

“They seem pretty similar to the sunglasses,” he said. “They make everything more vivid. I think the most different is my phone.”

He said being colorblind can make it more difficult to take tests that link a picture to an answer. It’s also difficult to work on group projects because colored folders are often used to assign tasks or organize information.

“Everything is kind of muted grays and pinks,” he said. “I can’t differentiate between colors.”

Mike McNabb is 70 years old and had never tried EnChroma glasses. He took a colorblind test on the computer and scored less than 20%. “I didn’t know I couldn’t see that much,” he said. “I’m hoping the glasses can help me distinguish things like these balloons, so they don’t all blend together,” he said, pointing to a cluster of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple helium-filled balloons.

The first thing he noticed when he put on the inside glasses were the shades of green in the caterpillar design on the carpet in the children’s room of the library. His experience outside with sunglasses was similar. First he remarked that “the third car in, the red one, is a completely different color.”

Then he remarked how many shades of green were in the trees. Like the green caterpillar inside, the shades of green all blended together for him without the glasses. McNabb looks forward to going to the next car show with the glasses. “I like classic cars. A lot of them have really good paint jobs,” he said.

His son, Jeff McNabb, is a 31-year-old web designer who graduated from Flagler College. “I use a lot of muted background color,” he said. “I have one or two people I show the designs to before they go to the client.” He had never tried EnChroma glasses before. When he put them on inside, he said, “First, it’s kind of jarring, I think.” Later, when the group moved outside to try the sunglasses, Jeff’s gaze followed the flagpole from the ground up. “Who knew the flag is really red, white and blue,” he told his father standing next to him. “The stop sign is easier to read, too!”

While the glasses improved color vision for all seven residents who tried them at the library, EnChroma cautions that some may see little or no improvement. The glasses work for 4 out of 5 people with color vision deficiency. County residents with a library card can check out a pair of EnChroma glasses for 14 days without charge.

There are five pairs available: two adult outdoor, one adult indoor, one for children ages 5-10 outdoor and one for children ages 10 and older outdoor.

Like any other library item, patrons can place a hold if a type they want is checked out at their branch or on the bookmobile, and a courier will deliver the glasses to the appropriate branch when available.

In addition to the new EnChroma glasses, the library’s Color Your World program will also offer free oil pastel classes for library patrons system-wide. For details on the classes, contact a branch library nearby for dates and times.

“Whether patrons see brilliant color for the first time or learn to see the world from an artist’s perspective, we are thankful for the Barbara A. Kay Foundation and their support of this exciting initiative,” Library Director Debra Rhodes Gibson said.

To take a color blind test online, visit bit.ly/colortestSJC.

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