Red & Yellow & Pink & Green: Why Colour Matters for People with a Visual Impairment

In the course of developing Band-it, the question of why I was using colour came up a lot. Many people assume that if someone is blind, they must not be able to see, making colour an unnecessary feature. But this is not true. As it happens, only 2% of people who are classified as blind have no sight at all, meaning that, for the other 98%, colour is a very important feature. The brighter and more vivid the colour, the easier it becomes for the visually impaired to distinguish objects from one another which means that when it comes to colour, the brighter the better.

If we look at one specific example of visual impairment, we can see why this proves to be the case. One of the most common forms of visual impairment is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a disease which affects the macular at the back of the eye causing loss of vision in the centre of the eye but not in the periphery. Because their peripheral vision is still functional, having bright and vivid colours can help those with AMD identify objects in their peripheral vision more quickly. Linking specific objects to specific colours, something that Band-it enables, makes that process of identification that bit quicker. For those with a more serious impairment, Band-it serves to make identification possible.

So, which colours do we choose? The first colour I chose for Band-it was yellow. Yellow is the easiest colour to identify for those with a visual impairment and is used frequently in products designed for this group. Yellow is also an excellent backdrop to black writing because of how strongly yellow contrasts black, and having a strong and noticeable contrast between backdrop and writing can make a huge difference in helping someone who is visually impaired to read. Yellow, therefore, was an easy first choice for a Band-it colour. Yellow Band-it bands are easily identifiable by themselves and when placed on a dark background, making the colour a perfect choice.

These qualities weren’t the only ones that were important in selecting colours for the Band-it bands, however. Another important quality is that the colours used can be easily distinguished from one another - if they were all yellow they would lose much of their functionality as a labelling system. Given that I had already chosen yellow, I needed something to contrast strongly with it. This is why I chose blue and green, two colours that are not as identifiable themselves, but which contrast strongly with yellow. For the last two colours I went back to the first criterion. Orange and pink are the next two easiest colours to identify after yellow, so they rounded out the Band-it set.

Band-it bands are big, bright, and bold, all features that make them tremendously helpful tools for the visually impaired. Combine that with the tactile shapes that allow the 2% of visually impaired people who are completely blind to distinguish objects, and Band-it is one of the easiest low-tech products to use for many people with a visual impairment.

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