Color Blindness: How To Plan for the Future

Color vision impairment requires a long-term plan. Discover available government assistance, mental health resources, and support groups.

By Ability Central

21 May, 2024

A middle aged Black man receives a color blindness eye test from an eye doctor, out of the camera's focus

About 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are colorblind. For some, the symptoms of colorblindness are so mild that a person may not even realize they’re color blind until they reach adulthood—and some, unfortunately, only discover their color vision deficiency when it’s time to take an employer-required color blindness test. 

Color blindness is so much more than simply seeing the world differently. It can have a drastic impact on someone’s work life, school experiences, self-confidence, and mental health.

Fortunately, many resources are available to help people with color blindness and their loved ones plan for long-term care. This article shares those resources and answers the following questions:

  • Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cover color vision impairment?
  • What medical and financial aid programs assist people who are colorblind in the U.S.?
  • What mental health issues often accompany colorblindness?
  • What support groups are available for colorblind people and their caregivers?
  • Where can I get more information about color blindness and other vision-related problems?

 

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cover color vision impairment?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not list covered medical conditions. Instead, it defines a person with a disability as someone who: 

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," 
  • has a record of such an impairment or 
  • is regarded as having such an impairment. 

In some cases, color blindness can play such a large role in someone’s life that it does substantially limit major activities, like finding or keeping a job. Luckily, the ADA puts expectations in place for certain school or workplace accommodations.

For example, if accommodations are necessary for the workplace, the ADA would cover things such as:

  • Labels
  • Special glasses
  • An assistant to identify colors
  • Apps or devices to identify colors

For more information on workplace accommodations, see Disability Rights in the Workplace: An Overview and Employee Guide: How to Ask for Workplace Disability Accommodations

You can also find more color blindness accommodation resources from the Job Accommodation Network.

 

What medical and financial aid programs assist people who are colorblind in the U.S.?

For a person who is colorblind, a trusted doctor can make the difference between an isolating experience and a healthy, connected routine with adaptations for color vision deficiency. The logical place to start your search is with your health insurance company.

Vision coverage can help people afford to see an eye care professional who can diagnose colorblindness, but insurance plans often have limitations in the actual treatment. Here is what you should know:

  • Insurance plans don’t usually cover color-correcting glasses because they’re not considered “medically necessary.” VisionCenter.org says that if you have vision insurance, you can ask about receiving EnChroma glasses as prescription sunglasses. You may be given a discount or voucher, but it depends on your insurance provider.
  • If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), you may be able to use those funds for colorblind glasses. Always be sure to double-check your coverage before you make any major purchases.
  • Medicare does not cover colorblind glasses, but it does cover the eye exam. Medicare also covers certain treatments related to, but not directly treating, color vision deficiencies. These might include frequent eye screenings for people with diabetes, cataract surgery, or treatments for macular degeneration and other eye ailments that also cause color blindness. 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is paid to people with low or no income who have a physical or mental disability. While color blindness is not named specifically, SSI does cover people with a “severe” disability or collection of disabilities. Even if you have never worked or paid income tax, you may qualify for SSI if your color blindness has significantly impacted your ability to get or keep a job. 
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is paid to people who have worked and paid taxes. The amount of the benefit is based on your prior earnings and can be applied when someone develops a disability like color blindness, or when a preexisting condition worsens to the point that it becomes a “severe” disability. Like other disability programs, SSDI depends on specific qualifications, so double check with your doctor to see if you qualify. 

 

What mental health issues often accompany colorblindness?

Because color blindness plays such a large role in a person’s life, depression and anxiety are not uncommon in people with color-vision impairment. For specific statistics on mental health concerns, see The First Steps to Take After Discovering Color Blindness.

Depression and anxiety can develop alongside acquired color blindness, or if a person born with color blindness experiences a negative life event because of their condition, like missing out on a dream job. 

For example, many people with mild red-green colorblind symptoms do not know they’re color blind until they take eye tests required for certain jobs, like airline pilots, military positions, or dangerous factory environments. 

Younger adults diagnosed with some form of vision loss are nearly five times more likely to develop depression or anxiety than people 65 and older. If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with color vision deficiency, be on the lookout for signs of worsening mental health.

Early signs of anxiety may include:

  • Worry
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge
  • Irritability

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Feeling sad or helpless
  • Weight changes
  • Fatigue

A whole-body approach to any treatment, including treatment for color blindness, focuses on mental and physical health. It may include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Proper diet
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Joining a support group with people with a similar condition

Ability Central offers a searchable database of nonprofits that specialize in helping people who are colorblind with their mental health, not just their medical needs. 

 

What support groups are available for colorblind people and their caregivers?

Color blindness can be a very isolating condition. A support group is a great way for people with color blindness to connect with people who “get it.” 

In many color vision deficiency support groups, members discuss the impact their color blindness has on their daily lives. They share stories of successes, failures, and humor related to the condition. 

Your healthcare provider may have a list of support groups in your community. Online options include:

 

Where can I get more information about color blindness and other vision-related problems?

We Are Colorblind is a website full of first-person stories of people who are color-vision impaired. Both educational and interesting, this is a great place to start understanding the condition, science, and advancements. 

Colorblind Guide offers free courses to understand color vision impairment better. Courses include:

  • A course for parents to better understand their child’s condition.
  • Daily life tips and tricks.
  • Understanding how career options are impacted by color vision deficiency.

Ability Central offers a series of articles to further your knowledge about color vision impairment. See:

For other vision-related disabilities, see:

Article Type:
Learning