Six Tips for Explaining Colors to a Blind Child
By Deborah Kent
Because I have never seen colors, I don't think I really understand what they are. However, I do know the color of many things: crows are black, leaves are green, and hair may be blonde, brown, red, black, gray, white — or dyed any color a person desires.
I also know colors are highly symbolic in our culture: "I was so angry, I saw red." Or, "I was tickled pink." Learning about color is one more way for your child to learn about the world.
Here are six ways to begin to talk about colors with your blind child or student.
1. Never Be Afraid to Talk About Colors.
Talking about color is not upsetting to your child, even though it may be troubling to you at first. If your child has never seen color, he doesn't miss it — but he is bound to be curious. Encourage that curiosity!
2. Refer to Color in Everyday Conversation.
Help your child understand that color is an aspect of nearly every object and substance in the world. You can say: "Here's a nice red apple," or, "Put on your pretty green wool mittens." When the teacher asks, "What color is your coat," your child will proudly say, "It's blue!"
3. Think About Color as Information.
"Roses are red, violets are blue . . ." Even though a child who has never seen cannot understand color in the same way, they can learn what color objects are in the world. At Halloween, your child can easily learn that pumpkins are orange. But don't go crazy! Knowing what color every toy in his toy box is would be boring!
4. Attach Emotions and Feelings to Color.
Help your child understand color by relating it to her other senses. You might describe red as a hot, loud color; white as smooth and quiet; black as shiny; or blue as the notes of a saxophone. A blind blogger once wrote: Yellow is buttery and rich, like sunshine on your face.
5. Save the Subtleties of Color for Later.
Explain the subtleties of color when the child is older. Apples can be green as well as red; the sky can be blue or gray, depending on the weather; the water in a glass is colorless (clear), but the ocean "looks" blue.
6. Explain that Some Colors Look Good Together, Others Don't.
Help your child put together outfits that match, and tell her what colors they are. This will become more important later, when she is picking out her own clothes.
Blind Comedian Tommy Edison Talks About Colors
Tommy Edison, who's been blind since birth, asks passers-by at a VidCon conference to explain colors. Watch people fumble in their attempts to describe colors in words!