While purchasing something, we asked for turquoise. The young man expressed, “I’m going to need help because I’m colorblind and I cannot distinguish turquoise from blue. It all looks blue to me.”

Rarely do I hear developers discuss colorblind disability. Disability covers a wide range of challenges that are easily overlooked until we are confronted with it.

Did you know that according to the US Census Bureau, there are 1 in 5 people that struggle with a disability¬†that we know of? Let’s shift the focal point from current event views of the people that struggle in silence as victims, to those with a disability. What do those numbers look like and how many of them speak up as developers declare that the disabled are only a few in society?

According to colourblindawareness.org:
“Colour (color) blindness (colour vision deficiency, or CVD) affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world. In Britain this means that there are approximately 2.7 million colour blind people (about 4.5% of the entire population), most of whom are male.”

Who is our target audience with the electronic solutions we create? If our default response is “everyone,” what global groups are we failing to consider during our product development goals?

How are our workforce applications impacting their ability to read information that is necessary to understand with our workflow processes and procedures? I believe that we need a higher level of disability intelligence in organizations to understand where hidden gaps may be. Sometimes, it could be something like colorblindness that someone may not want to admit they have a challenge with because of the perception of their contribution viability in our professional community.

Colour blind people can get very frustrated with electrical goods which have red/green/orange LED displays to indicate either that a battery needs charging or the machine is on standby. All these colours can appear to be orange. An example might be a handheld games console with an indicator light which changes from red to green depending upon whether the unit is fully charged or needs recharging. This can be extremely annoying!

While project managing high visibility projects with demands for quick percentage completion updates–because I am a visual person, my spreadsheets were often coded to change color as the task status changed.

One young man was consistently trying to throw me under the bus for whatever reason he had. He sent an email after performing maintenance window activity on equipment that I had clearly marked as “DO NOT MIGRATE.”

It was highlighted in red. Unfortunately, he missed that detail and attempted to migrate the equipment anyway. The chastising email was carbon copied to an entire group of higher-level managers.

Color Blindness Chart
Image credit: eyestudioinc.com

In response to all, I attached the original email with the equipment scheduled to be migrated that night with the scripts. I pointed out how I had clearly indicated that the equipment was not ready and asked what I needed to do to make it more clear to him. An apology followed for trying to throw me under the bus.

In retrospect–what if he was colorblind and unwilling to admit it? In large, there have been several telecommunication professionals that struggled with a disability in chosen silence. For years, I too remained silent about their disability while listening to several spout dismissive statements about the lack of worthiness a particular person with a disability would be to the industry. Still, I said nothing while knowing that someone in the room struggled in silence.

Shameful. This drove them deeper into silence having received a confirmation that they should never “out” their challenge. Some people would retort, “Why do you care?” Now, I would probably vehemently respond, “Because one of the people you claim to adore and respect professionally struggles silently with this very thing you’re so eagerly declaring cannot do this job.”

What would you rate your disability intelligence as within your company? How about your team?