Bay Area companies help color blind kids see with new lenses

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Bay Area companies Clorox and EnChroma have helped to put a special pair of lenses in the hands of dozens of color blind kids. (KGO-TV)

The world is about to become a brighter place for kids who have had varying degrees of color blindness. It's a condition that even their parents didn't always spot right away.

Jo Hadley remembers her son Asa's earliest years. She said, "When he was a little guy, he had his shapes and his numbers, but he just never got colors."

However, their families heard about a contest being sponsored by Clorox and another Bay Area company called EnChroma, which has pioneered a unique set of lenses that can restore the ability to see colors.

Donald McPherson, Ph.D., is the company's chief scientist. He says the EnChroma lenses work by restoring the correct balance of red and greens, which get blurred together by deformities in a color blind person's eye.

"And we do that by creating a filter that goes in and carves out certain wavelengths of light. And it separates those photo-pigments back where they should be," McPherson explains.

That life-changing power caught the attention of Clorox, which is located a short distance from EnChroma's headquarters in Berkeley. The company offered $10,000 to help distribute the glasses to young students suffering from colorblindness.

That grant funded a contest. Kids were asked to dream up an invention they would like to build themselves, then submit a video describing it. Then 75 winners were chosen to receive a set of EnChroma lenses.

ABC7 News watched as four of those winners tried them on for the first time and tried to identify colorful objects.

"This ball it looks so much brighter, all these colors are popping out like so much more," remarked Asa Hadley.

"I can't see crayons at school, so I just pick one out the best I can see," explained Roman Mercado.

R.J. Acuna was able to identify to color of a plastic Slinky. He said, "I think it's made of orange. Orange?"

And for Travis Risley, the epiphany was the color of his own yellow socks.

"They're a lot brighter than I thought before," said Risley smiling.

But like colors themselves, emotions also covered the spectrum.

"He's our fourth boy. The second, third and fourth are all color blind. This is the first time we've gotten to see, one of them at least, see colors," said Travis' mom, Andrea Risley, who teared up.

The company is still advising families to register for its online newsletter for info any upcoming giveaways.

The EnChroma glasses can cost anywhere from $250 and up and are available from the company's website.

Written and produced by Tim Didion
Related Topics:
healthchildrenchildren's healtheye carecloroxbay areaSan Francisco
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