Since beginning this site I've always found it interesting to see what search queries drive some of the visitors to this site. Just the other day someone came here having searched for an answer to the question "do colourblind people see grass orange?"
An interesting question, and one that doesn't have as simple and straightforward an answer as most might think. As Daniel points out on his site, he wouldn't be able to see an orange laying in grass. Does that mean he sees the grass as orange, or the orange as green? I'm sure people could argue over this for a long time but in some ways it's neither.
What's in a name?
As with anyone, when a colorblind person is a kid they learn the colors of common objects which serve as reference points. Grass is green, oranges are orange and the sky is blue are some common examples. Whether a colorblind person has trouble with those colors or not, they will still know what color those things are. Color names are just words used to describe a particular range of spectral properties. Something that is blue reflects more light in the shorter wavelengths whereas a red object reflects more light at longer wavelengths than it does at medium or short. While it may seem like an arbitrary system we've all been taught to apply the same names to the same things which means that barring any color vision or cognitive issues, you should be able to identify most things the same way as other people.
Seeing is more than the eyes
The problem I run in to is that sometimes I can look at something and I don't even know where to begin to try identifying the color! In the soft pastel greens, peaches and skin tones everything starts to blend together making it pretty much impossible to identify a color without any sort of contextual information. This sort of problem is also exactly why I came up with the term blurple.
Vision is a complicated system relying on the eyes and the brain and since the concept of color is a perceptual property of the human visual system I wouldn't say that a colorblind person sees the grass as orange. They may not be able to distinguish the green of the grass from something that is orange, but they know the grass is green and the orange would just happen to blend in for them, such as in David's case. If you showed him a colored patches that match grass and oranges in color he wouldn't be able to identify them but given the context of "this is an orange on a field of grass" he would "see" the colors. Sometimes I would describe it as though there's a big tool tip hovering over things labeling the colors as I identify common objects and tell myself what color they should be. Maybe David sees "GREEN" in bold hovering over every lawn he sees, hopefully he uses a nice font.
I had been thinking about sharing some of the more amusing search queries that have driven traffic to this site in the past, but I don't think I've put any thought towards that in the past year or so now. This post will likely be the first of a never-ending series of posts that respond to more interesting (or amusing) search queries.
Here are a few other searches from way back, when I had originally been thinking about doing this:
screw the colored blind - October 31, 2008
screw with color blind people - August 23, 2008
being color blind as a white person - September 16, 2008
color blind test color blind people suck - September 17, 2008
blind photographer - September 19, 2008