Indiana State University Newsroom

Cunningham Memorial Library purchases glasses to aid colorblind

March 26, 2018

Brian Bunnett stared intently at a piece of artwork hanging in the Indiana State University Art Gallery, trying to distinguish the colors that made up "The Hermit."

It is not an easy task for Bunnett, associate librarian at the university's Cunningham Memorial Library, who was diagnosed colorblind as a child. But he was up for trying out the library's new EnChroma glasses, which are designed to enhance color vision for types of partial or incomplete red-green color blindness.

"Colors are definitely brighter and more vivid for me without the glasses on, but colors are deeper with them on," Bunnett said about his experiences using the EnChroma lens. "The first time I had the glasses on (during Robert Arndt's human physiology class), I didn't have them on for long and I wasn't looking around so closely, but I don't notice much of a difference. I did look at a colorblind test plate, and I could barely make out the right number with the glasses on, but I couldn't make out the number at all without the glasses on."

The glasses have been checked out once and have been used as part of a discussion about the eye in Ardnt's class, where Bunnett served as a model to test the glasses for the first time.Shelley Arvin, associate librarian at State, got the idea to purchase the glasses after spending Thanksgiving with her future brother-in-law who is colorblind.

"He mentioned that he would like to try these glasses, and I thought this would be an opportunity for the library," Arvin said. "I presented the idea to Dean Robin Crumrin, and we investigated them and decided to purchase the indoor glasses. While the glasses might be costly for an individual, the library is able to acquire the glasses so the resource can be shared."

The glasses are available for checkout for use in courses or by students, faculty or staff for the same borrowing time as with books -- three weeks for students and six months for Indiana State employees.

The glasses are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure colorblindness, but the maker estimates the spectacles are effective for improving about 80 percent of red-green color vision deficiencies.

Color blindness is a congenital deficiency that afflicts more men than women, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which estimates that 1 in 10 males experience some type of colorblindness, with red-green blindness as the most common form.

"The EnChroma glasses try to remake the light that is confusing to the brain," said Shaad Ahmad, assistant professor of biology at State. "They aren't perfect and they're not a cure, but they might help make colors pop a little bit more for someone with mild red-green colorblindness. The glasses are relatively new, though, so there haven't been tests to prove their effectiveness. That would require a double-blind controlled test to make sure that there isn't any bias or placebo effect."

EnChroma glasses, which come in indoor and outdoor options, use a "multinoch" filtering to cut out sharp wavelengths of light and enhance specific colors. The lenses separate the overlapping red and green cones to improve vision for people who have difficulty distinguishing the two colors.

The manufacturer recommends users allow at least 10 minutes for their eyes to adjust to the lenses and, for optimal effectiveness, users should wear the lenses for at least 10 hours in a variety of environments for one to two weeks.

"There aren't a high percentage of people with the mutations that cause colorblindness, but it's a nice service to be able to offer because the glasses are expensive, $300 to $400," Arvin said. "The library provides an avenue for people to try the glasses without making the investment."


Photo: - Brian Burnett, associate librarian at Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library who was determined to be colorblind in his childhood, shows off the library's new EnChroma glasses. The glasses, which the maker estimates are effective for improving about 80 percent of red-green color vision deficiencies, are available for checkout for use in courses or by Indiana State students, faculty or staff.

Contact: Shelley Arvin, associate librarian, Cunningham Memorial Library, Indiana State University,

Writer: Betsy Simon, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or