How Do You Explain Different Colors to a Blind Person? One Blind Woman Tells Us

Have you ever thought of how to explain what different colors look like to a blind person? One blind woman shares her experience.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Dec. 13 2019, Updated 8:44 a.m. ET

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Source: iStock Photo / Twitter

If you are a seeing person, it is beyond difficult to imagine what it's like to be blind, especially a blind person who was born without sight. For them, the world they feel and hear and smell must to them, look a little different than it does to us. After all, how to you explain what different colors look like to someone who has never seen, say, red, green, or blue before?

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One Twitter user recently became curious about how colors are explained to blind people and came across an article in The Cut called, "How to Explain Color to Someone Who Can't See." In it, a woman named Ashley, who spent much of her childhood without sight, explained how her friends and family tried to explain to her the feelings that different colors evoked by "reframing sights into experiences that didn't require that sense at all." She shared a few of them. 

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That seems accurate and seems like it would make me understand, but of course I've seen red before and I know what it looks like. I don't know if, given that description, I would picture what red really looks like. It's so incredibly fascinating to think about and makes me realize just how differently some blind people probably experience the world. 

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"Omnipresent coolness" is a totally amazing description for the color blue. But think about how many varieties of blue are there? How do you describe "light blue" or "navy blue" or "aqua blue" to someone who has never seen any color before?

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These color descriptions are really evocative and poetic. And as Cari Romm writes for The Cute, Ashley's descriptions are "an interesting reminder that color, something we think of as completely visual, isn't just seen. A room will feel soothing or energizing, cheerful or gloomy, depending on how it's painted."

Colors are so much more than just hues. They trigger emotions and are part of our language. They symbolize so much. When we experiencing colors, we rarely experience them without feeling. Another Twitter user popped into the conversation to share a similar thing they wrote in 2015, a sort of lyrical meditation on how they would describe colors to blind people. 

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Another Twitter user shares that The Black Book of Colors is a children's book, in black and white with Braille letters, that "describes colors via metaphors without relying on sight." They write that they believe it describes red as "the taste of strawberries," which is just so delightful! But it's also so very different from the explanation of red that Ashley's family and friends gave her. 

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It's hard to know how exactly people without sight interpret these descriptions of colors and if a blind person who hasn't had sight at all would even picture a color at all! But it's so interesting and helpful to think about how to share your experience of the world with someone who perceives things differently.

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It's true that different colors connote varying things in different cultures, so that's definitely something to take into account as well when you consider this. But, as someone else points out on Twitter, "We all don't have the same interpretations of those same colors anyway. Color is, and will always be, subject to cultural context, colorblind or not."

Not to mention, colors like red can be interpreted in wildly different ways within the same culture, too. It can symbolize love and life but also danger and death. The world of colors is so much more nuanced than we consciously consider on a daily basis. 

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