What do the Colourblind See in Clubs?
All original images from Unsplash

Being colour blind may not be life-threatening, but it sure as hell can annoy the shit out of you.

For Daryl Ong, his degree of colour deficiency means he has difficulty recognising certain shades of red and green. Referring to the colourblindness test, he says, “Everyone around me seemed to be able to identify the numbers on the Ishihara number test without much problem and laugh at me for not being able to answer.”

On screen, certain shades of red and green also have a “polarising effect”, which he explains feels similar to wearing 3D glasses.

Ironically, he works in production. When he used to be a colour corrector on videos and photos, he would get certain colour tones slightly off.

The Ishihara test. (Image: All About Vision)
On the other hand, Seak Zheng Xiu was six when he first discovered his colour deficiency. He was picking up saga seeds on the road when his mother realised he was scratching and gathering the tarmac on the road instead of the red seeds.

The 20-year-old, who is currently serving National Service, says, “I mix up similar colours like blue and purple, green and yellow. I also can’t see many of the numbers in the Ishihara number test. The numbers are simply not there and I just see colourful white noise, kind of like a mosaic.”

As for how his colour deficiency has affected his life, he admits that it has shaped how he dresses. “I stick to neutral colours a lot because I’m afraid of matching colours. The habit just stuck with me since young.”

That said, these are common situations you’d expect those who have colour deficiency to experience differently. But what about an experience less talked about, such as clubbing, where trippy lights and neon signs are all part of a fun night?

I show Daryl and Zheng Xiu the following pictures.

This is where it gets interesting. Daryl says they look ‘normal’ to him, but also clarifies that he has no way of knowing whether what he sees is the ‘correct’ colour. Zheng Xiu, on the other hand, is more precise in his description of what he sees, and makes the following observations.

(Bear in mind this may not be a totally accurate depiction.)

“Roulette looking light set with spotlights, all of the same colour which I’m guessing is ... red? It’s a shade closer to our national flag.”
“This looks like long exposure to me. It’s light greenish ...? I find it difficult to distinguish this one, as I always just consider it the ‘colour of light’ when I see similar pictures.”
“A fan-shaped looking blue light?”
“This kind of has a green tinge to the entire picture. Some blue knobs on the mixer.” This description required no change to the original picture.
“Flooded with red lights. Almost looks bloody.” (This somehow reminds me of The Shining.)
“Blue and red spotlights. Screens are blue to me.”
“I don’t see much colours at all in this actually. Maybe some blue at the top right.”
While most of these pictures are not drastically different from what a ‘normal’ person sees, Daryl and Zheng Xiu know better than most that it’s the tiny things that matter.

For instance, they have to accept that they may never be able to win at online games.

“When playing FIFA online, sometimes I have trouble telling apart the players. I find the shades of colours similar, but my friends seem to be able to see fine. Maybe that’s why I keep losing,” says Daryl.

Yet trying to represent what Zheng Xiu sees is also a reminder that our views of the world, literal and metaphorical, are always solely ours. We may try our best to describe something as precisely as we can, but it’s highly unlikely anyone will completely understand what we mean.

In this case, it’s frustrating not being able to fully visualise what he tells me he sees because it’s clear we do not share identical mental references for every colour.

So I suppose if you are ever plagued by feelings that no one gets you, chances are there’s someone colourblind who knows how you feel.

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