Message from Yasuyo Takayanagi

The number of children and parents who receive the shock of being told for the first time from a school color vision test that the child is “abnormal” is sizable, and the extent of that surprise is hard to imagine for people with normal color vision. A culture in has endured for many years in which people feel they have to hide this fact. The reason is that color vision deficiency casts a dark shadow over these students’ future lives in the areas of education, employment and marriage. Although color vision tests in schools are not done in order to uncover student abnormalities, the result of these tests is to help create a world in which color vision deficiency is something that must be hidden. This is completely unreasonable, however. The situation is born from many misunderstandings and biases against color vision “abnormalities” that have accumulated over many years.

To correct these false assumptions, people involved in school health need to have proper knowledge of color vision and warm compassion for students with color special vision.

Rather than an “abnormality,” color special vision is a distinctive condition in which it is difficult to distinguish certain color combinations. It should be considered an individual characteristic, which in most cases causes few disadvantages in daily life and work.

Let me conclude by quoting a passage by Dr. Motohiko Murakami, Professor Emeritus of Keio University and distinguished vision physiologist, who also has color special vision, from his book How Do We See? (Iwanami Shinsho).

“I am color vision deficient. These are words I have come to hate the very sound of. What I hate, however, is not the genetic abnormality of cone pigments that sense color but the discrimination based on the ignorance and uninformed opinions of most people. Looking back, I have had a long association with this enemy—the sense of inferiority I was made to feel as a child, and the bitterness I felt toward the entrance examinations of many schools. For me the biggest quandary was that I somehow had to get into medical school so that I could take over for my father, a physician in private practice. Even if I passed the first written examination for medical school, I would be rejected if I failed the color vision test in the secondary physical test. I managed to pass the entrance examination by completely memorizing all the Ishihara color blindness test plates. Once I got in to medical school, my color vision deficiency caused me no disadvantage whatsoever in studying medicine. With recent advances in molecular genetics, much has come to be understood about the genes related to color vision. If we look at color vision from the opposite direction, that is, in terms of genes, I believe it is impossible to draw a clear line between what is normal and what is abnormal.

“Giving the color vision test in school health is like sowing seeds for bullying. Of the myriad abilities possessed by humans it is only one, and one that causes little difficulty.

“Awareness of human rights is increasing in society today, and many restrictions are being rapidly eased thanks to the efforts of people calling for an elimination of discrimination against people with color deficient vision. One of the most important things a mother can do is to raise children with the strength to rebound from the various difficulties and setbacks they are sure to encounter in life, and the abilities to overcome these hardships. For this it is important for fathers and other family members to properly understand the position of mothers who carry the gene for color deficient vision, and to maintain a warm family environment.”