Berks County Public Libraries will be the first institution in Pennsylvania to offer EnChroma color blind eyewear free for public use. To celebrate the launch of the new program, five local color blind participants were invited to the Village Library of Morgantown Saturday afternoon for a live reveal event where they tried on the glasses for the first time.
One in 12 men (8%) and one in 200 women (.5%) are color blind, 13 million in the US, nearly 18,000 in Berks County and 350 million worldwide. While people with normal color vision see over one million hues and shades, the color blind only see 10% of them.
To the five color blind participants, the world appears gray, dull, washed out and some colors are indistinguishable; purples and blues blend together; reds appear brown and pinks look gray. Even some of our colorful local scenes in Berks County are less vibrant.
The glasses will be housed at the library system headquarters in Leesport and will travel to any of the 23 member library locations when requested.
Saturday’s event in Morgantown included five colorblind local residents. Following brief remarks by Amy Resh, system administrator of the Berks County Public Libraries, Commissioner Christian Leinbach, and Village Library of Morgantown Board of Trustees, Lisa Betz, participants were provided EnChroma glasses to see the world in color for the first time.
EnChroma glasses use special optical filters that help the color blind see an expanded range of color and to see it more clearly, vibrantly and distinctly. The glasses are the product of two NIH research grants and clinical trials at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The glasses are not a cure for color blindness and work for 9 out of 10 color blind people.
Shawn Fries is a 39 year-old color blind elementary music teacher for the Northwestern Lehigh School District, lives in Fleetwood, and hasn’t tried EnChroma.
“As a teacher in an elementary school, I often struggle to help my students know what colors are, and this is often detrimental to my students and their learning! Fortunately, they make names on the side of crayons and markers! I am always cognizant of color blind students in my classroom as I am able to understand their unique color needs.”
Randy Litwin is a 41 year-old color blind retail services manager living in Parkesburg who attended high school in Morgantown.
“There has been varying degrees of difficulty in life from hard times helping my kids with projects to simply enjoying movies or art” said Litwin. “Running retail services, everything from organization to computer repair is color-based, which can cause challenges.”
Litwin has big plans for his EnChroma glasses. “I want to go to Cape May and see the rich colors associated with the shells, sea glass and coastal living and bridge some gaps in colorful things I miss out on with my family.”
Daren Ernfield, 41, is a color blind former electrician who is now a probation officer and lives in Richland. He briefly tried EnChroma glasses four years ago. He is most excited about seeing the leaves change color in the fall.
“Starting in kindergarten I was impacted when coloring or matching colors. I tried to lay low on anything color related. I always had to ask for help with matching clothing. Previously, I was an electrician and needed to be sure of the colors of the wires. I sometimes had to double and triple check wire colors. Now, being a probation officer, I can struggle with describing an individual or vehicle by color. Traffic signals can give me issues especially when they are turned on their side.”
Tyler Steele, age 15, is a color blind high school student who lives near Lancaster. He has owned EnChroma glasses for several years.
“Being colorblind really affected in the past with coloring assignments, finding differences, or finding small different colored things in a diagram. Soon, I will be driving, and while it’s hard for me tell the differences in color at the traffic lights I just remember the pattern and which one is lit up.”
Tyler’s mom reached out to EnChroma several years ago and relayed. “It was especially hard for Tyler when I had him help me wrap red and green tinsel around our Christmas tree…. he was devastated that he couldn’t tell the tinsel from the tree.”
What he hopes the EnChroma glasses will do: “I got a pair of EnChroma glasses for Christmas one year and it was so great seeing the bright contrast in colors. I wear them most the time in summer when the colors are brightest and enjoy seeing the colors. I would like to see a flourishing rain forest or something like that sometime with the glasses.”
Stephen Macready, age 33, is a color blind A/V Technician from Boyertown who has never tried EnChroma
“I have trouble distinguishing green, yellow and orange LEDs. I work with projectors and lighting a lot in my work. Sometimes, red, yellow, orange, and green all look similar, even when two different colors are side by side. While I do eventually figure out which color is which, it takes a lot of double-checking and second-guessing. I wonder how accurately I can color-correct an image and I usually ask a coworker if the color looks good. I would love to know how large a portion of the spectrum I’m missing out on, and maybe get insight on why I like or decorate in a certain color schemes.”
Macready was excited about trying EnChroma glasses. “It’s a very unique opportunity to experience something I’ve always wondered about. I wonder what it’s like to see the world like most people do. I hope the EnChroma glasses will reveal something to me that I never knew before. I would love to wear a pair at a museum and see works of art with a new lens.”