Do You See What I See? Understanding the Challenges of Colour-Blindness in Online Learning

Amanda Jefferies, Colin Egan, Edmund Dipple, Dave Smith

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In this paper we introduce the 'Hertfordshire Colour-blind Emulator' (HCBE) software application. Currently, our aim is to raise awareness of the challenges that the colour-blind encounter on their learning journey. HCBE emulates four major types of colour-blindness: protanopia, deuteranopia, tritanopia and monochromacy. HCBE accepts an image file and outputs that image in the way that a colour-blind learner would see the original inputted image. For any inputted images there are four options for outputted images, one for each colour-blind type.
Colour-blindness is often considered to be a mild disability where, on the whole, a colour-blind learner has developed his/her own “coping mechanisms” to avoid, but not to eliminate, problems in their learning. The problems faced by some colour-blind users of online games have recently been highlighted in the research, this paper identifies some of the issues for students in their learning. The Equality Act 2010 places the responsibility of making reasonable adjustments to aid the disabled on the educational practitioner by providing legal rights for disabled people, irrespective of the severity of the disability.
We show that colour-blind learners do have problems interpreting information when that information is presented as images. In particular with increasing reliance on using VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) as a repository for study materials then it is possible that the challenges which colour-blind users suffer will be exacerbated. Estimates of the frequency of colour-blindness show that there are approximately 8% males and about 0.4% females who are colour-blind. It is also our experience that few practitioners are aware of the problems that colour-blindness can cause and even fewer practitioners that make any reasonable adjustment as required by the UK’s Equality Act 2010.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 10th European Conference for E-Learning
EditorsSue Greener, Asher Rospiglio
PublisherAcademic Conferences Ltd.
Pages210 -217
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781908272
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • colour-blind, e-learning, online learning, disability, accessibility, Equality Act 2010


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