New Glasses Promise a Solution to Colour Blindness

About 10 per cent of the population is colour blind and simply can't perceive as many colours as those with normal vision. There has never been any way to correct the condtion but now, a U.S. company claims they have created glasses that can open up a world of colour to users. But some eye experts remain skeptical.

Colour blindness, or colour vision deficiency, as doctors call it, is more than just a nuisance. Most with the condition can't distinguish red from green and have trouble with aspects of everyday life. They can't become pilots, firefighters, electricians, police officers or take part in several other professions.

An estimated 2.6 million Canadians are colour blind, most of them men, because of a missing or mutated gene on their X-chromosome. There are different forms of the condition, but most people with a moderate form of red/green colour blindness can correctly identify just five crayons from a standard box of 24.

Now, the inventors of a brand of glasses called EnChroma say they have found a fix that is helping to bring the colour back into users' lives.
The EnChroma glasses don't work for every form of colour blindness; in fact the company says they are effective in approximately 80 per cent of cases.
But they say their glasses make colours appear brighter and more saturated. Users report that they can distinguish certain colours faster and more accurately.

The company says the solution was discovered accidentally, when glasses provided to surgeons to help them distinguish tissue from blood during laser surgery also seemed to fix colour vision.
Devyn Vasseur is colour blind and says the first time he tried the EnChroma glasses, he couldn't believe his eyes.
"I looked up and I was like, Wow. Experiencing all these colours as an adult for the first time is indescribable," he says.

Thanks to a series of testimonial videos showing people trying on the glasses for the first time, sales have exploded for the glasses, which cost about $400 a pair.
"This year alone, we have sold over 10,000 pairs of eyewear," says Donald McPherson, the co-founder of EnChroma.

But some ophthalmologists are skeptical, including Dr. Sam Markowitz of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and Toronto Western Hospital, who says other products claiming to fix colour blindness have come and gone. He would like to see hard research that show the glasses actually increase the number of colours users can see.
"I would prefer to see validated colour testing," he said.

EnChroma says it's planning to do that and is also expanding into contact lenses that colour-correct too.

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With a report from medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip

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