Colorblindness Coping: Colorblindness & Windows 7
December 3, 2013 8:05 AM   Subscribe

The nut of the question/problem is this: When I use high-contrast mode in Windows 7, people are receiving emails from me where the text is blank. Is this because windows 7 changes the font to white for me to see it, and then emails that same font to users who have white backgrounds? How can I fix this? I really don't want to ask for special software accommodation at work. I'm private and would really rather just fix it on my own and move on. Snowflakes abound inside.

I am afflicted by red-green colorblindness, and for roughly forty years it has never been an issue at my place of employment; however, recently I was sent a spreadsheet with one column in colored text that was colored in a shade that I couldn't discern. As a result, I missed an important step and had to deal with losing face. I work with some hyper-aggressive people who immediately indicate that it's obvious to them that a certain green-shaded column means 'paid' while to me it means... invisible.

I don't often tell people about being colorblind, because I deal with anxiety and just get overwhelmed by the questions or the 'can't believe it attitude. '

Hoping to mitigate further embarassment, I switched my computer over to one of the high-contrast modes. It did help me pick up some of the colors that were harder for me to see... or at least modified them so that I could read.The main issue that arose was when I sent or responded to an email, my font would truly be white and the person receiving the email wouldn't be able to read it. I had no idea that the theme was a true change to font colors, etc, and not just a cosmetic change with the underlying text still being readable by other users.

Does anyone else out there have red-green c/b? Have you ever missed something that was so obvious to someone else? What do you do to overcome missing things that you don't know are missing? Specifically, I'm looking for technical/technological solutions. One of the requirements, is that I must be able to make whatever change/adjustment without administrator access.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can go into MS Office (excel, outlook) and change the default font color for typing, so that should solve the first problem. Find a font color that is both readable for you in the high contrast mode and for others in regular mode.

In excel, one of the things you can do (if you want to be able to do just a quick check to see if you're missing something) is to use the "accent" formatting to quickly change the color scheme. In later versions of excel, this should be up in the top banner in the "home" tab and have a bunch of different colored cell options available. Just mouseover one of them and it'll (temporarily) reformat your cell with a different font and background color. It may make it more readable for you, or at the very least change it enough that you'll be able to notice if you've missed something.
posted by phunniemee at 8:15 AM on December 3, 2013

This question is really hard to answer without knowing what email software you're using.

If you're using Outlook, when you change the text color, at the top of the palette of colors, there's an option for "Automatic". This will format the text to display using the default text color (white for high contrast mode, black for regular mode). If you change the text color to "Automatic" in your stationery (File > Options > Mail > Stationery and Fonts), it should fix the problem.
posted by zixyer at 8:35 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I may be oversimplifying, but could you get rid of the high-contrast mode entirely and when you open a new document, just select all and set the text colour to black? Or are you sent a lot of pdfs that would prevent this?
posted by valoius at 12:58 PM on December 3, 2013

On Windows, you can invert colors on your entire screen by loading the "magnifier" application under accessibility, clicking the settings icon (a little gear on Win 7), and then selecting "Turn on color inversion." That can sometimes bring out subtler differences between colors. Maybe try it out with the offending graph? You could also try an app like this, which works on your smartphone and makes the camera input more colorblind-friendly in real-time.

Beyond that, honestly, I'm a little bewildered about why you wouldn't want to mention this at work. I have red-green colorblindness and work in a field with a lot of data, and it is one of the first things I mention to someone who sends me a graph, particularly because the standard color scheme in my field is red vs. green. I tell people to use blue and yellow instead. People also seem to love selecting shades of red in Powerpoint presentations that I can't differentiate from black; if that happens I usually ask them if those lines are supposed to be different colors and that usually gets the point across.

I would be very surprised if telling people you're colorblind led to any kind of professional blowback. Even if your co-workers are cartoon dicks, discrimination based on a medical condition that can pretty trivially be accommodated (this is a desk job, not the Air Force) seems like exactly the type of thing that could lead to a lawsuit. I am not a lawyer, but you can bet I'd be talking to one if I thought I was being discriminated against for having less color resolution than the average bear.

Finally, I obviously don't know your entire situation, but red-green colorblindness is extremely common and benign. The lengths that you are going to in order to hide something this ordinary are not typical, and you seem much more embarrassed about it than most people would be (e.g. you describe it as an "affliction"). I think that obsessing about keeping it secret and working around your colorblindness, rather than just dealing with the problem, is likely to be making you even more stressed out than you already are. I think you would really benefit from talking about these feelings with a counselor, or at least downloading an e-book or two about stress reduction and dealing with anxiety.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:17 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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