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What Colour Is Your Link?

First of all, if you need a laugh, click on a horse or two. How do people come up with this stuff? Also, this is why cows hate winter (requires a movie viewer like Windows Media Player).

Recently one of my readers (God, I can’t believe I just wrote that) provided me with feedback about the colour of the links on this site. He’s colour blind, and was having trouble distinguishing the links from the other typeface. He suggested I change the colours to darker shades of green or blue. Initially my choices were for appearance only. I made the changes to see if it would help him, and it did. I’ve worked with a colour blind colleague, and his area of responsibility was maps! Colour blindness also surfaces in the movie Auto Focus.

With his permission, I share with you his comments, which are enlightening in that they reveal some of the problems with which a colour-blind person must deal in today’s world:

“Those of us with severe colourblind affliction (I’ve got it right through the rainbow) sometimes get cheesed with the attention paid to other handicaps.

Until the complete conversion to sodium vapour street lamps in Edmonton, I could not tell the difference between a green traffic light and a lamp post. I detected green lights by their movement against the straight lines of street lamps (the same method used to detect planets).

Solutions are easy: combine colour with shape. In Wetaskiwin, the traffic lights are built thusly: Green = square, Amber = diamond, Red = circle. Who cares about countdown walk lights – just let me know if it is safe to drive through an intersection.

One upside is the ability to detect counterfeit money. Colourblindness allows you to see through dyes. If the mix isn’t right, it stands out like a sore thumb. The downside is a list of career choices once considered but doomed: telephone installer (I thought this would be really neat when I was eight – hacker mentality already apparent), pilot, any serious graphic career (from artist to architect to web designer). My application for police lasted 8 minutes.

So when the only blogger I regularly follow accommodates me, I’m tickled pink. I know the ‘look’ you’re after – seamless – but you may wish to include in your blog the reason for the change – quote me verbatim. And yours is not the only site I’ve discussed this with.

You may wish to include this piece of advice: when a person confides their colourblindness, resist the urge to pick up the nearest object and ask “what colour is this?” Would you ask a wheelchair-bound person to walk?

I have enough trouble trying to get my browser to recognise Java (I wish I had never gone to IE6). It’s nice to be able to recognise links with my eyes and not by dragging my mouse.”

4 Responses to “What Colour Is Your Link?”

  1. zuchris Says:

    Fascinating. I never thought of accommodating the color-blind readership. The suggestion was made for you to change your link colors to darker shades of green or blue. Am I to infer that reds and purples are not perceptible to the color-blind?

  2. Jena Says:

    Check Rebecca’s site and look for the heading “color-deficient specific.”
    Check your own site with visicheck.

  3. Darcy Says:

    Hey Randy. The horses are HILARIOUS! Thanks for the link.

  4. Posted anonymously Says:

    Hey Zuchris!

    Colourblindness is just of those things. What is it? That’s what it is! (thanks David Mamet).

    Optometrists/opthamologists usually pose the question “You do know you are colourblind, don’t you” and the subject is left at that. Apparently, this hereditary condition is caused by improper pigment layering in the cone cells on the retina, and there is no way around this. No medication, surgery, filtered-glasses or magnets in the heels of your shoes.

    My awareness of what life was going to be like happened in kindergarten. We were asked to colour a line drawing of a horse, and the teacher posted a large picture of a horse on the board for inspiration (or in my case guidance). I stared at my box of 48 and could not see anything that resembled a horse colour. I went up to the picture and held up some good guesses. Nothing. I did the best I could, and when all the pictures were put on proud display howls of laughter accompanied the posting of my picture. Luckily, a month later we moved, and I’ve been faking it ever since.

    It is hard to describe the ‘blindness’ – I see everything and it all looks normal to me. I see a rich palette of colours, but they’re not the same colours you see. Red-green is the most common, but the pigment in my eyes is uniformly uneven. I see different colours for all colours. But even I cannot imagine what total colourblindness is like.

    What we see is so dependent on technology. Printing dyes, paint components, the chemical nature of the heat source within a light bulb – each are designed with their own colour wheels. I once asked a CBC technician if there is anything different between TV sets manufactured in US/Japan and those in Europe (apart from PAL/NTSC issues). To me they always looked different, and I was always curious if it was me or the sets. His answer surprised me: the phosphors used to coat the screen are made up of what is mined locally. The nature of the phosphors in Europe causes a slight shift in colour temperature in certain hues when compared to US/Japanese sets, but the difference is only test bench measurable. He should see them through my eyes.

    But back to the practical. If the net is a hallmark of communication, why take chances with clarity? Randy’s blog became invisible to me until he put some REAL colour into. And thanks Jena for the links on Rebecca’s site – I was surprised how well this issue is covered.

    Apart from futile attempts to explain all this to individuals who trip me up, I’ve not spent much time in my life digging into this issue until the last few days. We may not be many, but some of us are trying to be important enough to make differences. Hats off to Randy!

    My turn to post a link: It’s a powerpoint demo illustrating red-green deficiency. Go to slide six for the good stuff. Here’s the punchline: I can’t confirm how accurate this demo is because I see these slides … differently.

    Now, which comedian used this line: “I don’t pick my socks by colour. I use thickness.”

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