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Colour blindness is not considered to be a Special Educational Need but it places children at a disadvantage in education. There is little support for children who cannot operate effectively using colour, because teachers have no training in this area.
For the average student, colour is a useful tool. For colour-blind students, who do not see many of the colours in question, it can be a nightmare. It undermines confidence, encourages basic errors and causes frustration and even anger. Colour-blind children can learn to identify some colours through their hue and saturation – and experience. But they cannot see colours in the way their peers can. Colour blindness will affect performance and understanding in many subjects.
Many Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) children feel embarrassed about not being able to choose the appropriate crayon or to accurately describe things around them. They may be slower to follow instructions, because those based on colour may make little sense. Indeed, CVD children may seem ‘slow’ or ‘hesitant’, because they are often perplexed by the need to make choices based on something they cannot see.
When colour-blind students face options based on colour, they will not only struggle to distinguish between them, but they will make basic errors that will compromise their work – and their ability to learn. When using colour, they will spend precious time trying to work out what is being highlighted and fail to absorb the information efficiently.
In secondary school, students must interpret coloured maps and graphs. Colour is used to highlight material and as keys in instructions. It's used widely in the science lab, the art room, in maths, food technology, ICT, geography and history. Teachers use colour to highlight on whiteboards and often use different colours for marking.
Some 25% of children have a severe form of colour blindness. It's not possible to find out exactly which colours someone with a less severe condition will be able to see. It is best practice to assume that each class will have at least one colour-blind child with a severe form of colour blindness and present information accordingly.
A guide for teachers and special educational needs co-ordinators
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