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By Andy Ross

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The woolly world of colour "blindness"

Did you know that wool has been much used in the testing for and of colour blindness?

The way people see colour is important. Colours can stop us eating the wrong food, or help with driving a car safely, or tell us about danger. Some people though have colour blindness which means that they do not perceive the same colours as others. 

Testing for colour perception is really important in some industries and so tests to reveal what people are seeing when asked about specific colours have been developed. Many of these tests involve comparisons; can a subject match coloured objects to a test object, or can a subject choose, when asked about a specific shade, that colour? Of course, we all perceive colour differently so these tests can be problematic!

Wool has been used as a material for the testing. Have a look at this page from the College of Optometrists in London which has some of the techniques and tests used for colour perception. Similarly, the picture on this page is of a display in the National Museum of Edinburgh and shows the Holmgren wool colour vision test bundles. Lovely, aren't they?