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Professor uses app to address color-deficiency

April 04, 2012 12:00AM

Professor uses app to address color-deficiency
David Sours, PSU Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies, demonstrates an iPad application that simulates how a person with a color deficiency might see an image.

Most people see the world in color, but everyone doesn’t see colors in the same way. That’s an important issue for students planning on careers in graphic design and PSU Associate Professor David Sours has discovered “there’s an app for that.”

In the past few weeks, Sours, who teaches in the Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies, has discovered an iPad app that is bringing new revelations to his Color Reproduction course. The CV Simulator is an app that allows people to see what a person with a visual color deficiency might see.

“It’s something I’ve always wondered - if you have a color deficiency, what are you really seeing?” said Sours, who has trained hundreds of graphics imaging professionals for whom the ability to see color correctly is critical. “This is an excellent tool because it gives us an understanding of what colors look like to these people. Often they aren’t even aware of it.”

Twice a year, Sours gives the FM 100 HUE test to his students, which requires them to put 85 colors in order and gives them an idea of how sensitive they are to colors that are typically tougher to differentiate, such as blues, greens and yellows. With this new app, however, an instructor (or employer) can see instantly what their student or employee sees.

“Somehow, graphics students who have this problem often find a way to adapt,” he said. “I had a former student who had difficulty determining red versus orange, and his employer simply labeled them for him. It’s very interesting to see, for example, a girl wearing a pink blouse in my class. I look at it through the app and it looks brown. It really gives us an understanding of what they see.”

Although Sours will be retiring at the end of the semester, he hopes this new tool will be something the department can continue to use and build upon.

“After all these years, it’s exciting to be able to see color through another person’s eyes,” he said.

According to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, about 7 percent of American men (about 10 million) are unable to distinguish red from green, the most common color deficiency. Just .4 percent of women have the same problem. Total color blindness, in which everything appears monochromatic is extremely rare, officials say, affecting just 0.1 percent of humans.

©2012 Pittsburg State University