My son has a love-hate relationship with puzzles. He loves figuring out how the pieces interlock to create a bigger picture, but he hates that he can only tell those pieces apart by their shapes – not their colors.
That’s because he’s colorblind.
It’s a common condition. According to the National Eye Institute, some form of color blindness affects 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females.
Yet, contrary to what my son’s classmates believe, most people who are colorblind do see color. They just perceive color balance differently – sometimes much differently. My son, for example, has red-green color blindness, the most common form. He confuses purple with blue, brown with green, and pink with gray. For him, it’s almost as if the color red doesn’t exist.
He simply sees the world a little differently.
A few weeks ago, I started looking for puzzles made specifically for people with color blindness. I was surprised and delighted to find several options by a graphic designer on Zazzle. Here’s the one I ordered:
You may notice that the designer used several techniques to make the illustration more accessible to people who are colorblind: high contrast, a limited color palette, and a variety of patterns and textures.
The result? It was my son’s first love-love experience with a puzzle. And now that I know what to look for, it won’t be his last.
I’ll admit that, while I’m familiar with accessible design, I didn’t really get its impact until I saw my son’s excitement over a simple puzzle. Sure, there are far weightier examples of accessible design. Still, this one made a difference in the life of an 11-year-old kid.
It wasn’t even the puzzle itself that made him the happiest. It was the fact that someone had purposely made a product for people like him.
And all it took was a designer who was willing to see the world a little differently too.
This animation video by Yoav Brill offers an artist’s perspective on the experience of color blindness.