View Full Version : How can you describe color to a blind person?

05-24-03, 01:28 AM
Lets say for example you needed to tell a blind person what the color blue is. How can this be done?

05-24-03, 02:44 AM
I think one possibility would be to compare colors to musis. Eg. Gerschwins (?) Rapshody in Blue would be a good begining. I would try to translate something nice (colors) to something as nice (tones).

05-24-03, 03:15 AM
When I was a child this question also bothered me. Later I had the occasion to ask two blind people about how they perceive colors. One of them was born blind - she said that she feels the colors. Whenever the sun shines on her skin, she feels "yellow". But that was what they had told her since she was a child. With other colors it was the same.

I recommend you read Helen Keller. She was a deaf-blind person, who learned sign-language and was able to speak and write.

05-24-03, 09:49 AM
thx sparkle, but is there any way to just describe the color to a deaf and blind person?

05-25-03, 12:37 AM
it would be very dificult to describe color to a blind person because color relies completly on the sense of seight, however as others have stated you could give the illusion of color using the other senses as a guide to show how your own mind precives color.

05-25-03, 12:39 AM
If you hit a blind person in the head, then a light can be registered in the brain. So just start pouding blind people in their heads. Also, try explaining black as being very dary, and then light as very light. Not that they would know what dark or light actually was.

05-25-03, 04:54 PM
so they see black all day?

05-25-03, 07:19 PM
I would ask a blind person who wasn't always blind to talk to them.

I imagine they would have a better understanding.

05-26-03, 09:20 AM

05-26-03, 09:23 AM
Colours are to sight as flavours are to taste.

05-26-03, 03:13 PM
what tastes blue?

05-26-03, 03:17 PM
Originally posted by qfrontier
what tastes blue? I concede the direction you are moving in. You will however understand my illustration.

05-26-03, 03:22 PM
I remember hearing somewhere that color may be perceived as warmth/coolness, bc every color (reflects? physics!) light differently. You wear white in summer and not black, bc black clothing will heat up faster and more intensely.
Music is perceived through vibration by the blind, i remember seeing that in a movie.

05-26-03, 03:24 PM
Now that i think of it, i think touch is the better way of learning things. this semester was the first time i took a course of sculpture, where we had to do a relief (implies judging distances). I realized i never really saw objects in relationship to each other until now!

05-26-03, 05:17 PM
I disagree. How can it be possible at all for someone whose been completley blind for all of their life to imagine colour. Or sight in any sense. They may understand shapes from information derrived from their other senses but being able to imagine a whole new sense should surely be impossible? If we have all our senses working correctly, or rather we believe we do, and someone came along to try and explain a whole new sense none of us had experienced, what could they compare it to, keeping in the restrains or our limited knowlege? Its a whole new world.

stray dog
05-26-03, 11:59 PM
I know a blind woman who was attacked and lost her eyesight at the age of about twenty three. Her name is Razia.

One of Razias counselors was born blind. Razia asked what would a person born blind dream of; they dream of sounds.

Someone born blind would have a hard time understanding the
concept of color.

05-27-03, 04:23 AM
This may not be exactly on topic but i recently heard a bbc lecture serise, "The Reith Lectures" by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (neuroscientist). A number of things are discussed but a large part is about something called synesthaesia. People with synesthaesia can (and it varies with each individual) taste colors, hear shapes or see sounds. I believe he addresses blindness and synethaesia. How some people with this condition, blind from birth, can process color through other senses. This is only part of a larger discussion on the brain and its functions but VERY interesting nonetheless. I just thought someone may find it as interesting as I did and this thread crossed some issues he discussed.

if your at all interested i found the serise here

its an audio file so its reasonably easy to digest.

05-29-03, 05:49 PM
Wow! I was just going to post something on synesthia. I did not follow your link, but here a recommendation for reading:
Cytowic, R.E., Synesthesia A Union of the Senses, New York, Springer 1989

05-29-03, 09:50 PM
Go rent the movie "MASK" Cher is in will give you ldeas.

05-29-03, 10:44 PM
I loved "mask" but im not quite sure how it relates to the thread, please include some more details on that thought.

05-30-03, 09:36 PM
I've recently wondered if I'm suffering some weird acute case of synethaesia. Someone can ask me a question, and instead of having an answer in words, I feel the need to draw a logogram of some description, cause I feel the true meaning of what I want to say is contained in that, not in words. Hmm, actually, that's far from synethaesia, isn't it. :p

05-30-03, 11:41 PM
You probably have a very artistic mind:cool:

06-02-03, 04:03 PM
I do not think that you can explain colours to a blind person. They can know all of the science behind the colour. They can know that an apple is red, that grass is green, and that an orange is in fact orange. But they will never know what orange is like.

Read: What Mary didn't know. It's a tad off topic, but I do not think that a blind person will ever know red. They just cannot conceive the idea. Unless they were not blind previously in life.

06-02-03, 04:20 PM
"Well it's kinda the same shade red as a fire truck.... oh... my bad..."

06-02-03, 04:33 PM
I am of the opinion that colour is another useful means of classification and blind people don't need it. I relate colour to language (not words. Communication, memory triggers and the like. )

its like having a computer with no scanner. The capacity is there but it is just used in another way (and yes I know that a metaphor doesn't validate a groundless theory)

06-02-03, 11:01 PM
You can't.

06-03-03, 10:33 PM
have you found a way to describe color to ANY person, blind or not? without using examples...

i guess you do it with poetry, but they'll never get it. neither will you, or anybody else.

color is an ambiguity

Well it's kinda the same shade red as a fire truck.... oh... my bad...


06-04-03, 05:15 AM
Lets say we have someone who is blind from birth,
we cannot possibly establish if that person dreams like we do.

They cant tell us and we cant know,what if a blind person dreams in colour,shadow and shape like we do,
if they did it would lead us to assume that there is more to dreams than life experience.

06-11-03, 12:45 PM
have you found a way to describe color to ANY person, blind or not? without using examples...

Exactly that. It's impossible to compare my senses with yours, regardless of any disabilities you may have. When I feel warm, is it the same warm that you feel? When I see red, is it the same red you see? Do either of these questions even mean anything? Color has no meaning to someone who's never experienced it.

06-13-03, 04:57 PM
People could actually feel differing degrees of pain or pleasure. That would either make one's life indescribably better than one's neighbor's or indescribably worse, I suppose.

06-13-03, 05:16 PM
People could actually feel differing degrees of pain or pleasure. That would either make one's life indescribably better than one's neighbor's or indescribably worse, I suppose.

So, how exactly do I go about comparing my neighbor's pleasure/pain to mine? Should I feel his emotions and do the comparison, or should I give him my emotions and let him tell me the result of the comparison?

06-13-03, 06:57 PM
I entreat you, my pugnacious comrade, read carefully and scrupulously before you impugn my comment. Did I not state "indescribably," indicating that the differences in pain or pleasure could not be conveyed?
You should look before you leap, compatriot. :p

06-13-03, 07:01 PM
In an indescribable way, I'm equivalent to the gingerbread man.

06-19-03, 12:00 PM
Actually, a blind person may be able to experience color simply by dropping acid. LSD and shrooms mess up the messages being sent to each of your sense receptors. This is why people, when they're tripping, say they can "feel colors" etc. So I wonder if you gave them acid, and then had them feel and smell different things, if they would get the message sent to their visual receptor and be able to "see" things.

Interesting idea, not very pragmatic.

06-19-03, 12:03 PM
Perhaps drugs could cause a blind person to see color, but for all we know they see a constant swirl of random colors constantly. How would they know that's something meaningful, and not just some sort of noise? Even if they only see color when they take a drug, how can you say "Right there! That's color!"? They may experience it, but I don't see how you could help them figure out which of the strange experiences they're having is color.

06-19-03, 12:16 PM
Good point Eurthyphro,

However, assuming they don't see a perpetual swirl of color in there head (which I can't verify, but perhaps somebody could), the color they experience from the drug would be a totally new sensation; therefore, they might be able to figure it out based on the abnormal circumstances.

That's pretty psychadelic if they do see a constant swirl of color though.

09-23-03, 02:12 PM
I saw a person that taught a blind man the colour red and blue.

He made him touch a hot thingie and a cold respectively. This
gave the person sensations and focusing closely, could "imagine" colour...
his version of colour...

Give the blind person a parameter to begin..that might help...
if what they see in that moment for us...tell them to
guide themselves under that parameter...


oh well.. :m:

yeah...guess it wouldnt work :p

Closet Philosopher
09-23-03, 05:43 PM
I agree with the "tasting" colour one. blueberries taste blue. Purple freezies taste well... purple.

As for the description... it would depend on what type of blindness the given person has. If they see black all day, and have no hope at all, then colours can be described though situations like sex is red, and green is plants or life.

certified psycho
10-05-03, 05:39 PM

10-06-03, 10:29 AM
Isn't black all of the colors in the spectrum combined and white the absence of color? If so, then if a blind person saw black all day, he would be seeing a combination of all the spectrum at the same time. Is that accurate?

I would assume they would see darkness. Darkness is the absence of color because of the way color is "created"
Color is created when white light (sun) hits an object. The object will absorb some of the color and what we see is what wasn't absorbed. There are also 2 other ways color is created. Emission and Scattering. Emission is like Lightning and Scattering is like the sky is blue.

10-11-03, 07:18 AM
How about this...

You all know the story about how we all have three cones in the back of our eyes and colorblind people have two. There are some types of apes that only have two cones. Scientists are trying to implant the third one. The thing is, there are some birds that have four cones. If scientists can perfect the cone implant...

New colors.

10-11-03, 02:37 PM
If a person who isn't blind looks into the sun with their eyes closed, they'll see red, orange, or yellow (usually red). So you could give them an idea that way. Also, when you close your eyes and gently press on them, after a few seconds swirls of colors will begin to appear.

10-14-03, 10:20 PM
This relates to an unresolved discussion I had a long time ago.

All who are not color blind agree on the colors they see. What I call red, you would also call red. Similarly for other colors.

However, are you sure that the internal perception you have is the same as mine?

Perhaps the grass looks red to me, but I call it green because that is the word I was taught to use for that bright red color.

Perhaps if your perceptual images could be translated into images in my brain, I would be astonished to see that the grass looks blue instead of red, and the sky looks green.

Several of us decided that we could not be sure that our internal perception of colors agreed with those of others. We decided that our perceptions of shape agreed, but not color.

When I saw this post, I decided that no way could I describe my color perceptions to a blind person. Hell, I cannot even explain them to a sighted person who agrees with me of the names of the colors I see.