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North Dakota State Parks Making Fall Colors More Accessible to Colorblind People

As fall colors begin their annual show across the state’s hills and valley, North Dakota Parks and Recreation is launching an initiative to make those colors available to people with color blindness.

The department is partnering with EnChroma, a California-based maker of eye ware produced for low color vision and colorblind people. Under the arrangement, EnChroma glasses are available for people to borrow and use at all 13 state parks. North Dakota is the first state in the U.S. to offer them, according to Parks and Rec.

A kickoff event marking International Color Blindness Awareness Month was held Wednesday at Fort Lincoln State Park south of Mandan. Four volunteers, all with some degree of color blindness, were given a pair of glasses to try.  

Standing in a camping spot, all four donned the glasses, and after a few moments to adjust, they were asked for their reactions.

“Not normal,” 9-year-old Bismarck resident Graham Ostendorf said.

That reaction brought a laugh from his dad, Joel.

“What’s not normal?” Joel asked his son.

“The trees, like there used to be only yellow and now they’re like different colors,” Graham replied, adding that those different colors were nothing he had ever seen before.

Graham and his younger brother Dane, 5, are part of a large colorblind population that the program offered by Parks and Rec will cater to. Colorblindness affects more than 12 million Americans, or roughly 3.7% of the population, according to research by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Males are affected more than females.

Joel Ostendorf said he and his wife were only recently told their sons might be affected.

“I think their ‘normal’ was always what we had taught them — ‘Here’s green, here’s yellow’ — and that’s what they learned, so it was new news to us,” Ostendorf said. “Something that we had never thought of before, but now that we’ve found out, it’s cool we have these glasses to give them the experience.”

Parks and Rec said the goal is increased inclusivity and accessibility. A department spokesperson said each state park has six pairs of the glasses available. The department also is looking to install special viewfinders using EnChroma technology.

The four volunteers at Wednesday’s event were gifted their glasses, courtesy of EnChroma. 

For Elizabeth Marshall, the gift comes at just the right time. Marshall, 60, of Boise, Idaho, said she found out about the event while making an online camping reservation at the park. She stopped for one night on her way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

“I never win anything,” she said. 

Marshall, who discovered she was colorblind in the third grade, said the glasses made quite a difference.

“When you don’t see stuff, you don’t really miss it. Now when I take these things off, it looks kind of bland,” she said.

Source : Bismarck Tribune