Joco 913

From blah to bright with one simple invention

Olathe resident Joey Henning, 7, tries on EnChroma glasses at Brill Eye Center Sept. 9. The glasses create a filter for people with red-green color blindness. The filter prevents the normal blurring of the two colors that people with red-green color blindness experience.
Olathe resident Joey Henning, 7, tries on EnChroma glasses at Brill Eye Center Sept. 9. The glasses create a filter for people with red-green color blindness. The filter prevents the normal blurring of the two colors that people with red-green color blindness experience. Special to The Star

Bill Allen has lived his whole life without experiencing thrill of seeing the leaves turning colors in the fall.

This year, new glasses could change that.

Allen, 49, is one of thousands of people living with color blindness in Kansas City. He is also one of many who tested out the newest developments in eye-wear for the colorblind at a recent event at Brill Eye Center in Mission.

“It’s like being able to see for the first time,” Allen said of trying on EnChroma glasses at the Sept. 9 event. “It’s kind of like learning to walk again, I suppose.”

The event, sponsored by Brill Eye Center and Plymouth Owners Club — a local group of car enthusiasts — was held in the eye center’s parking lot, at 5820 Lamar Ave. Guests were invited to test EnChroma glasses in front of a display of colorful vintage cars and a handful of balloons.

After trying on the glasses, Allen said he saw a world he had never experienced.

“The red car doesn’t look brown,” the Overland Park resident said of one of the vintage cars.

Raymond Brill, owner and chief optometrist of Brill Eye Center, said the purpose of the event is to raise awareness that there are options for people with color blindness.

“It’s rare that you can make a difference in everyday life at a nominal cost,” Brill said. “We are changing their perception of the world.”

EnChroma glasses, developed for people with red-green color blindness by mathematician Andrew Schmeder and glass scientist Don McPherson in 2010, create a filter between the two colors to prevent the normal blurring people with color blindness experience.

Most people assume that color blindness means people can only see black and white, Brill said. Instead, they have a deficiency in which one color blurs into another.

According to the National Eye Institute, about 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women of Northern European descent have red-green color blindness.

In Kansas City, Brill said red-green color blindness — the most common type — could affect up to 80,000 men and 5,000 women in the metro area, or one in 12 men and one in 200 women.

Participants like Allen experienced similar sensations.

Ronan O’Brien, 6, was able to distinguish different shades of colors for the first time.

“He can point out purple, which he normally doesn’t do,” said Ronan’s mother, Rachel, of the colored balloons.

The glasses can range anywhere from $200 to $500. Options include indoor and outdoor glasses as well as prescription glasses.

Dave Hayes, 64, said he heard about the event on Facebook and wanted to see if the glasses worked.

Hayes said he experienced crisper colors once he put on the glasses, adding the pricetag is worth the investment.

“Being able to see colors how everyone else sees colors has always fascinated me,” he said.

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