What does life look like without colour?
Seeing and perceiving the world in colour – for many of us, this is a matter of course, and here at hubergroup, colour determines our daily life anyway. People with colour vision deficiencies, however, look at the world in a different light.
“I perceive colours through the individual shades of grey, and when I’m told which colour I see, I simply have an understanding or feeling for it that has developed over time,” the colour-blind Angelika Lamml tells us. “Many years ago, at the beginning of my studies, my sister and I were, for example, shopping in Munich. I bought a pair of very chic and expensive trousers. They were blue - but my sister couldn’t describe the shade of blue to me. Since that day, whenever an object has this blue colour, my sister describes it to me as ‘Munich-pants-blue’. So, for me, colours have a lot to do with associations.”
Angelika Lamml is one of around 3,000 colour-blind people in Germany and has been colour-blind since birth. The 57-year-old explains the cause of colour blindness to us: “In a healthy eye, there are three types of colour receptors, or so-called cones, each of which is responsible for one colour spectrum - red, green or blue. When it comes to colour vision deficiencies, we distinguish between colour-blind people that do not have any receptors at all, and people with colour deficiencies, who lack one or two types of colour receptors.”
But how does colour blindness affect life? Day by day, Angelika Lamml is challenged by severe visual impairment (myopia and blurred vision) and the extreme sensitivity to light that accompanies colour blindness. However, she finds the limited perception of colour blindness subordinate in her private life because she has learned to deal with it. For buying fashion, for example, she has developed the following methods: “I get advice from salespeople I know or who I feel are on my wavelength. I usually leave the price tag on after the purchase and ask my husband or colleagues for their opinion. Often, I also take a sample with me, when I go shopping for clothes or furniture, for example, to make sure that my newly acquired pieces match it.”
Colours play a decisive role - not only in fashion but also in media or on packaging. According to DIN 32975, a minimum luminance contrast of 0.7 applies to media for the calculation of colours and greyscales. In concrete terms, this means that when a colour layout is created, a black-and-white filter should be placed on top of it to see whether the greyscales can be distinguished from each other. This makes it easier for people with visual impairments to recognise important information.
In many applications of everyday life, however, this minimum luminance contrast is not taken into account. Angelika Lamml tells us: " Special offer signs in supermarkets with red lettering on black backgrounds are, for instance, impossible to read for people with colour vision deficiencies as the grey tones are very similar. And, unfortunately, this applies to almost every top design.”
In addition, the use of italics, capitalisation and small lettering (under 12 pt.) makes it even more difficult for visually impaired people. “Often, it is hardly possible to read information about ingredients or other details. It, therefore, helps if the product itself, e.g. shampoo, is clearly recognisable on the front, and you can read more than just the brand name," Angelika Lamml adds. “Space on packaging is limited, I’m aware of that, but unfortunately it makes shopping very challenging for visually impaired people. Paying attention to the luminance contrast and a clear design would really help.”
Angelika Lamml supports the Bavarian Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In her function as Coordinator for Accessibility, Training and Communication, she advises companies, such as planners, builders and architects, politicians, etc. on structural accessibility. After all, people with colour vision impairments have to deal with challenges that others often don't even notice.
We say thank you to Angelika Lamml for taking us on this exciting excursion!
Visual 2: Nitiphonphat - stock.adobe.com