Grey Means Go – An Introduction

I began researching and writing about color vision deficiency and its effects on transportation in 2009. I’ll be reposting some previously-published articles here with hopes to continue the discussion.

The issue of color vision deficiency been largely ignored by transportation professionals. An estimated 6-12% of the male population has some sort of colorblindness, meaning roughly 5% of road users are affected. The effects are not well documented, but what is known is that color deficient drivers suffer a disadvantage on the roadway.

The topic is important because 90% of what drivers use to navigate is visual, and much of that information is color-specific. Traffic sign types are denoted by color, and pavement markings in the United States have different meanings if they are striped white vs. yellow. Traffic signals’ red and green indications — the two colors most often confused by color-deficient individuals — provide drivers with opposite messages: Red means stop. Green means go.

But to a color-deficient driver, and even more so to a true color blind driver, the colors have little or no meaning.

Grey means stop. Grey means go.

The purpose of Grey Means Go is multi-faceted:

1. Describe the problem and share the small amount of research literature available on color deficiency in transportation and advocate for additional studies on the topic.

2. Share best practices that have been implemented – mostly outside the United States – to help colorblind drivers:

3. Encourage transportation professionals to consider color-deficient road users during design, construction, and operation of transportation facilities.

4. Encourage readers to share their stories of driving with color deficiencies, with the hope of increased community and discussion of this important issue.

How does colorblindness affect you on the road?

The Comfort of Discomfort

This is a 2010 article I wrote for Experience MHGS (now The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology), soon after moving from Columbia, Missouri to Seattle, Washington.

Missouri is all I knew. I was born in Kansas City and raised in a nearby Mellencamp-style small town. Janelle and I met as Southern Baptist summer missionaries, married right after college, started a family right away, and bought a house in a college town to live out our days rooting for the Tigers and volunteering in the church nursery.

We had talked about a potential move someday – maybe to the coast, or to Tolkein’s Rivendell. But that desire had been pushed to the background over the years, as babies and car payments and career ladders and mortgages became the norm. I had a stable government job, and everything in our life – including our lives themselves – were fully insured against loss. We had a retirement plan, college funds, and a Camry. We were set.

Then something happened. I think it was a combination of disenchantment with the comfort we had worked so hard to create, and concern that – in our early 30s – we had made all the life decisions there were to make. The suburban life of routine (complete with its cocoon of safety) was the end of the line. We had won the race.

Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like a win. More importantly, we didn’t want the race to be over. We became uncomfortable with the comfort.

Janelle’s journey toward graduate school was the catalyst for change. MHGS had been on her radar for years, but more as a dream than a potential reality. As we re-entered the discussion of a potential move, we quickly got excited and terrified at the realities of actually relocating 2,000 miles away from home. There were grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends to consider. Our financial comfort was based on a Midwest cost of living, not Seattle. We just bought a house. I worked in Missouri.

We dove into the process, figured out the logistics, and made the move. It wasn’t easy, but we had a ton of help along the way. The house sold almost immediately, even in a down market. I found a job where I work from home full time. Our cat slept four days straight during the drive from Missouri to Seattle.

Now, five months into our new life in Seattle and five weeks at MHGS, I can’t imagine any other life for our family. Discomfort is a regular part of each week.

It’s hard.

I love it.