Color Vision

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am blind. I wasn’t always totally blind though. As a child, up to around age twelve, I could see most colors. I could still see some very bright colors until I was eighteen.

When I asked the ophthalmologist at the university medical center to put me on the waiting list for cataract surgery in 2013, some color vision was all I hoped for. The doctor said that the best possible outcome was that I could have hand motion vision, ie. see someone’s hand move from one meter away. I didn’t really care about seeing anything one meter in front of me. If I’d have to hold a colored paper five centimeters in front of me to see its color, that was fine by me. I just wanted to be able to distinguish colors again. Unfortunately, though the surgery was at least a partial technical success, I never regained color perception.

When asked at the rehabilitation program for the blind what we’d be happiest about to regain if we ever regained our vision, most of my fellow clients mentioned some variation of independence. I, though, said that I’d be able to enjoy the colors of nature again. Unfortunately, though technology has come a long way, it will likely never be able to recreate an experience remotely similar to color vision.

I can still, fortunately, see some colors, but it’s in my mind’s eye. You see, I have projected grapheme-color synesthesia. When I touch the characters on my Braille display, they evoke a visual sensation of a color. Each letter corresponds to its own color, though some of the colors are very similar. That probably reflects the fact that I was never able to see the full variety of shades of colors that sighted people can. For example, the V and J are both a light shade of green. I can tell them apart if I see them both, in that the J is a slightly lighter, mintier shade, but it’s hard to describe.

Words also have an overarching color. In case you’re wondering, the colors of color words don’t always align with their meaning. For example, the word “Green” is more red (after the letter G) than green, even though both E’s are green.

I love my synesthetic color perception. It makes up for a loss of appreciation that no amount of technology can compensate for.

This post was inspired by CalmKate’s Friday Fun Challenge with the theme of “Colors”. I’m not really sure whether this rambling piece fits the idea of the challenge, but oh well.

43 thoughts on “Color Vision

  1. it more than fits the idea Astrid and I hope many come and read this!

    Colour/vision is something most of us take for granted … I am so glad that you did have some sight before and can get this perception about words and letters. I am impressed that you can verbalise your sensations so well … you have talent 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so very much for the compliment. I understand why sighted people take colors for granted. That being said, I was always aware that my vision could one day disappear and I tried to preserve my understanding of colors in all kinds of ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. smart lady! I’ve tried to describe many things eg house, size, colour, tree to people who were born blind … they were asking in their twenties so nobody had succeeded in describing it adequately 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s so interesting. Yes, many people who were born blind have trouble with concept development. I’ve even once heard about a blind seventeen-year-old who thought that the ceiling was where airplanes flew, because that person couldn’t conceptualize the relative height of a ceiling vs. the sky. I probably have a lot of misconceptions myself.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing! What is spatial sequence synesthesia? I, interestingly, having mostly grapheme-color synesthesia, find other synesthesias fascinating.

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      1. I see sequences in a three dimensional “map” in my head and in spaces outside of my body. The days of the week, months, years, centuries, even numbers themselves, take up space. Their positions in space never change. It’s hard to explain. When I am on a day and date, I can ‘see’ the whole year ahead of me and behind me like I’m standing in a ‘place’.
        I’m 65 years old and asked people for years how their numbers and days ‘look’. No one had a clue what I was asking!
        I found out about synesthesia about 5 years ago! It was wonderful to learn I have a special gift!

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        1. Your type of synesthesia sounds so fascinating! I can totally imagine it must’ve been eye-opening to learn about synesthesia. I learned about it when I was about sixteen, so can’t imagine going through most of my life not knowing.

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  2. What an amazing story. I could listen to you talk about letter and colors all day. Thank goodness there are variations to all kinds of experiences. I took on @Calmkate’s color challenge with the hope of describing color to a blind person, but could not grasp it. You have described it very, very well, and I thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I don’t think even I, now being totally blind, could describe colors to someone who’d never been able to see them. Thank you so much for trying.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us! So amazing and wonderful! I have a family member who has synesthesia and has tried to describe it to me. You’ve shared this so well. I wish you all the very bestest in your life!
    (((HUGS))) 🙂
    PS….I came by to read via a recommendation from Sweet Kate! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much for stopping by! I have tried to explain synesthesia before, but it’s quite hard. I mean, for sighted people, it may be easier to say that say the letter J is “the wrong color” when it’s colored like yellow when that person sees it as green like me. My experience, seeing colors on my Braille display, may be harder to grasp.

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  4. That’s so interesting that you have synaesthesias involving colour even though you can no longer see it, I’d think that must be really enriching in a way, although perhaps also quite frustrating that you can’t actually see them anymore. As a synaesthete, I think I would be super frustrated if I lost one of the senses that are involved in my synaesthesias, even if I still had the synaesthetic experiences that I could enjoy.
    I really love my synaesthesia(s) too. It can actually be very useful sometimes for me, but even if it wasn’t, it makes life more interesting and sensorily diverse.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I agree, it is both a blessing and a source of frustration. I mean, while I can “see” colors through my synesthesia, it is also a constant reminder of what I’ve lost in real life.

      What types of synesthesia do you experience?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have lexical-tactile, auditory-tactile, auditory-gustatory and lexical-gustatory. I’ve actually learned quite recently that “lexical” is a thing in synaesthesia and that it’s not just me. 😀 Can be very helpful when learning languages for remembering words easier.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks for sharing! That’s great that your synesthesia helps you learn languages. I find that, having mostly just grapheme-color synesthesia, I sometimes misread words in quite funny ways when letters with similar colors appear.

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          1. Wow, that’s interesting, I wouldn’t think it could have such effects! For me in turn, my synaesthesia sometimes makes me mix up some words in other languages when I have similar synaesthetic associations for both of them. They typically have nothing in common for anyone else, so it can be a bit awkward sometimes. 😀

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  5. I think colours are weird… Like do we even know them correctly or just trust that the people who first catalogued them were correct and that is that…

    I laughed a bit reading your explanation on colour as I recalled a question about if an orange is called orange because it orange or if orange is called orange because of oranges..

    Thank you for sharing and allowing us to join in on your perception of the world
    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As for color perception, I think I once read that people in a culture that has one color name for blue, one for yellow and then green is divided between them, actually see different shades of green as different colors depending on whether they’re categorized as their blue or their yellow. I’ll have to look into it further. Oh and your comment about oranges and the color orange made me smile.

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