EnChroma glasses

Glasses made by EnChroma help those with color blindness see colors with more vibrancy and clarity.

ALFRED — EnChroma, creators of glasses for color blindness, and Alfred University announced Monday that EnChroma glasses will be available for staff and students who are color vision deficient, or CVD.

The glasses are free to borrow from Alfred’s Herrick Memorial and Scholes libraries to help them better navigate schoolwork that utilizes colors. EnChroma glasses are engineered with special optical filters that help the color blind see an expanded range of colors more vibrantly, clearly and distinctly.

EnChroma was co-founded in 2010 by Alfred University alumnus Don McPherson, who serves as the company’s chief science officer. McPherson earned master’s and doctoral degrees, both in glass engineering science, from Alfred in 1984 and 1988, respectively. He was awarded an honorary degree from Alfred in 2018.

In addition to providing more than 20 pairs of glasses that help correct color blindness, EnChroma will give Alfred University faculty and staff guidance on adapting learning materials to accommodate those who are color blind.

One in 12 men (8%) and one in 200 women (0.5%) are color blind — 13 million in the U.S., 30 million in Europe and 350 million worldwide. With a total student population of 1,792, and 616 faculty and staff, roughly 76 students and 26 faculty and staff at Alfred may be color blind. For them, understanding colorful information in school, at work and in daily life can cause obstacles.

While people with normal color vision see over one million shades of color, the color blind only see an estimated 10% of hues and shades. Common color confusions include green and yellow, gray and pink, purple and blue and red and brown, with colors appearing muted, dull and hard to tell apart. Since 80% of information is conveyed visually, and often includes colors, this can lead to frustration, confusion and other issues for color blind students.

“Alfred University is honored to partner with EnChroma to provide this service to members of the Alfred University and local communities, to help those struggling with color blindness,” said Alfred’s president, Mark Zupan. “Alfred University considers inclusivity an important part of our mission, and this partnership reflects that effort.”

This marks the second time EnChroma has provided Alfred with glasses that help with color blindness. In December 2019, the university partnered with EnChroma on a loan program in which 40 pairs of the glasses — 20 at Herrick Library and 20 at Scholes Library — were made available for library patrons to borrow. Students, staff, faculty and community members with an account at the libraries could sign the glasses out just as they would a book.

“This partnership has fit very well with our libraries’ mission of supporting the educational and accessibility needs our campus community and the response from students and staff has been really positive,” said Mechele Romanchock, director of libraries at Alfred.

A study released Monday by EnChroma found that 78% of color blind people said they were often frustrated or confused by colors in school assignments and activities. One in three say color blindness affected their confidence in school and 81% believe teachers should adapt teaching materials for color blind students.

Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma, said Alfred is in the vanguard of leveling the playing field in the classroom for students who are color blind.

“Universal testing for color vision deficiency in schools, adjusting learning materials to eliminate or minimize the usage of problematic colors, and loaning students EnChroma glasses, are steps all K-12 schools and universities should take to support color blind students and faculty,” Ritchie said.

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