Color blindness or color deficiency is a decreased ability to see certain colors or differences in color. About 8% of boys and 0.5% of girls are born with a color deficiency. This trait is X-linked recessive, typically passed from a color deficient father, to his daughter (who is not color deficient), who may passes it onto her son. Thus, it may skip generations.

A color deficiency can have a big impact on a child’s school performance. Most children who are color deficient can distinguish between basic colors (such as red and green) but similar colors, pastels, and muted colors can be more challenging. Knowing when a student is color deficient and what some of the challenges can be will help to make their learning experience better.

Here are some examples of situations that may be very difficult or impossible for a child with a color deficiency:

  • Using yellow chalk on a green chalkboard, especially if there is any glare from a nearby window.
  • Blue print on purple paper.
  • Asking a child to pick up the blue book from the bookshelf, which is next to a green book.
  • Using orange chalk on green grass to mark a sports boundary.
  • Black text printed on red or green paper can look entirely black to some students.
  • When cooking, it may be difficult to distinguish different foods (such as a broccoli stalk and a carrot in a stir fry).

Here are some things a teacher can do to help accommodate students with a color defiance who are struggling:

  • Label a picture with a word or symbol when a response requires color recognition.
  • Make sure coloring pens, chalk, pencils, etc. are labeled with their name.
  • If you are writing on a green chalkboard, use white chalk instead to provide the most contrast.
  • Photocopy parts of a textbook or any instructional materials printed with colored ink.
  • Teach color deficient students the color of common objects; knowing what color something is can help them in their daily tasks. For example, they will use the labeled “green” crayon for the grass, “blue” for the sky, and “brown” for the tree trunk.

In driver’s education, the 3 colors of the stop light may all look the same color. Teach the student that the top light always means stop and the bottom light always means go.