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Colorblind? State park in Virginia offers viewfinder to help you see colorful fall foliage

park ranger looking through viewfinder
Ethan Howes, courtesy of Virginia State Parks

Colorblind people in Virginia can now view the world like the rest of us with a new viewfinder installed at Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County.

The state park is the first organization in Virginia to offer an EnChroma viewfinder – equipped with special lenses designed to help those with red-green color vision deficient to experience colors.

Ethan Howes, chief ranger of visitor experience, is colorblind and spearheaded the initiative to purchase the viewer. It was installed recently at the park’s gazebo which overlooks Rye Cove and provides a 360-degree view.

“This viewer will allow park visitors with red-green colorblindness to more fully experience the splendors nature has to offer,” said Howes. “Being colorblind, I am looking forward to seeing the colorful fall foliage this year.”

The viewfinder, made by SeeCoast Manufacturing, is in use at nearly 40 state and national park locations in 16 states.

The experience of looking through the viewfinders for a person who is colorblind can vary. Typically, they see a broader array and greater vibrancy of colors immediately or within seconds. Some visitors have a more dramatic experience, depending on the severity of their CVD.

Colorblindness affects one in 12 men and one in 200 women: 350 million people worldwide, 13 million in the U.S. and roughly 366,000 in Virginia.

While people with normal color vision see over one million shades of color, those with CVD only see an estimated 10 percent of hues and shades. Common color confusions include green appearing yellow, tan or gray; pink looking gray; purple like blue; and red viewed as brown.

“Natural Tunnel State Park bursts with colorful foliage that a sizable percent of the population cannot appreciate because they’re color-vision deficient,” said Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma. “We applaud the park for being a leader in promoting accessibility to this wonderful, color experience for colorblind visitors, and hope their example will inspire other parks in Virginia, and the nation, to follow suit.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.