Public spaces are packed with vivid color palettes, from the explosive shades of modern art to the covers of library books. But for people with colorblindness, the experience can be muted by an inability to take in the full spectrum of color.

Now, museums and libraries are starting to take note – and stock special glasses designed to improve color vision. Institutions such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the California Academy of Sciences and the St. Johns Public County Library System in St. Augustine, Florida, have partnered with a company that produces eyewear for people with colorblindness. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is the latest to join the fold with four pairs of EnChroma glasses for visitors to borrow.

Also known as color vision deficiency, most colorblindness occurs because of an extreme overlap between the photoreceptors, also known as cones, in someone’s eye. This creates an inability to distinguish between colors, such as greens and reds.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females have red-green color deficiency. The condition is usually inherited, but can be acquired from injuries and some other causes.

EnChroma sells glasses that draw on technology developed by Don McPherson, a glass scientist who stumbled on the idea while developing eyewear for surgeons who use lasers. When a colorblind friend tested a pair of McPherson’s glasses, he suddenly saw the color orange. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, McPherson tweaked the concept for colorblindness.

The glasses don’t cure colorblindness. Instead, they help people who have trouble discriminating between colors – a hallmark of the deficiency – filter out certain wavelengths of light and better differentiate between colors.

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