I have not been totally blind all my life. In fact, I could see some colors until I was around seventeen and still have grapheme-color synesthesia. This means that I see colors on the letters and numbers that I read on my Braille display.
The first colors I was no longer able to distinguish were green and blue, even though I have a vivid understanding of both colors in my mind now. I was about eight when I lost the ability to tell green and blue apart. Then, at around age twelve, I started seeing darker shades of green as black. For example, in summer, trees would appear black to me. This was one of the saddest experiences in my journey towards total blindness.
One of my favorite colors is green. Though I have a vivid memory and imagination of what it looks like, it’s hard to describe what green is if I had to describe it to someone wo was born totally blind. The fact is, after all, there is no way of perceiving colors except through sight. I, having had some sight as a child, can visualize what a color looks like when someone gives a description, whether that visualization is at all correct or not. Someone who was born totally blind, cannot visualize anything. Their brain just isn’t wired for it.
If I were to describe the color green to a totally blind person, I could of course name things that are green. I could say grass is green and trees are green in summertime. Green, in fact, is a color often found in nature.</P
I could tell them what feelings I associate with the color green. For example, green reminds me of a feeling of youthfulness, of fresh energy. Green, with its prevalence in nature during spring and part of summer, reminds me of the weather getting warmer. I don’t personally see green as a cool color, though many people do.
I could describe what colors I feel go well with green in clothing or the like. I for one happen to love the combination of green and blue, though I was once told when I wore a green and blue jacket to school in fifth grade, that the colors bite each other. I also love green with purple, pink and of course red. I don’t care for the combination of green and yellow or orange. Then again, these are personal opinions.
I remember once reading a book by Dutch comedian Vincent Bijlo, who is blind, in which the totally blind protagonist met the former tenant of his room. She told him that the walls were painted pink. He was in love with the woman so he said he liked pink because she did. This signifies the fact that blind people associate colors with the people and situations in which they hear about these colors. Pink is not a typical men’s favorite color, and blind boys may be raised with this idea. The man in Bijlo’s book clearly wasn’t. He had absolutely no concept of color, but he liked the color pink because his crush liked it.
Of course, it is useless to try to convey the actual image of color to a totally blind person. That doesn’t mean that blind people shouldn’t learn what color common objects are or what colors go well together in clothing. They may not be able to conceptualize colors. This however is also true of those who become totally blind later in life. I may be able to imagine what a color looks like, but I will still need to have sighted assistance for matching colors of clothing, for example, because the nuances of colors aren’t easy to describe. This is one reason why I usually wear black.
This post was inspired by one of the journaling prompts in 397 Journal Writing Prompts & Ideas by Scott Green. The prompt was: “If you were to describe the color green to a blind person, how would you do it?”