A colorblind Tacoma teen sees new colors for the first time

Dec 7, 2015, 3:43 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2015, 10:09 am
Eli Robinson enjoys colorful glass at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, with his new EnChroma sunglas...
Eli Robinson enjoys colorful glass at Tacoma's Museum of Glass, with his new EnChroma sunglasses. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of Glass)
(Photo courtesy of the Museum of Glass)

Thirteen-year-old Tacoma middle school student Eli Robinson is colorblind.

“For me, the hardest thing to do is tell blue and purple apart,” he said. “Red and green and brown mesh together a lot. I can usually tell orange if it’s really bright.”

Eli’s mom, Mary Boone, said she began to notice something was up when he was in kindergarten.

“It was when we would go see his coloring on the wall at school and it looked so different from everybody else’s,” she explained. “The sky would be orange and the grass would be brown and I just thought, well, it’s kind of it’s sad, he’s going through some goth phase already. And then I remember we had a car for quite a long time and he made some comment about, ‘I can’t believe we have this green car, it’s so hideous.’ And it was brown. And we kinda went, hmmm, there may be something more to this.”

Eli says it mostly doesn’t bother him. He can’t miss what he never had. However, it can impact some parts of life.

“I play soccer,” he said. “Sometimes I can’t tell the difference in jersey color. My soccer coach actually just found out about that a few weeks ago, so now he can’t really get mad at me when I pass it to the wrong team.”

Then the family discovered EnChroma, special tinted glasses that allow 80 percent of colorblind people to see the full spectrum of colors.

Eli entered a contest and he won a pair for himself. The glasses arrived Thursday night, and on Friday morning I met Eli and Mary at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, where Eli wanted to try the glasses for the first time.

“I’m excited because I’m never going to look at the world the same once I put them on,” Eli said.

Before he put them on, I had Eli describe the colors he saw on a piece of art in the museum’s lobby.

“Um, it kind of looks gray,” he said. “This is orange or red. Up there, I’m guessing it’s blue because it’s the sky.”

Then he slipped them on. The eyes can sometimes take 15 to 30 minutes to adjust to the glasses, but Eli saw colors immediately.

“Never seen blue that bright. It’s, like, really clear to me.”

How does he feel?

“I don’t know. My brain is in a lot of places right now.”

He walked through the museum, pointing at glass and guessing the colors.

“Now I’m going to have to relearn every color, I guess. Is that yellow? I don’t know what it is because I don’t know what to call that color. Purple? So that’s what purple looks like!”

He was especially intrigued by purples and for the first time he saw that colors have shades, ranging from light to dark.

“I know he’s way more excited than he’ll let on because it’s not cool to be excited when you’re 13,” Mary said. “But you can tell just the way he’s looking around at everything; it’s brighter, it’s clearer, it’s more vibrant. I think it’s going to change everything.”

Eli has a list of things he wants to see with the glasses: sunsets, rainbows and his bright green bedroom walls that he has always seen as dark gray. But his first hour seeing colors made for a pretty exciting day.

“It was awesome because now I get to see everything, I guess, how other people see it. I don’t feel left out anymore, I guess. It’s just awesome. I was really surprised how different blue and purple are.”

For more information on the EnChroma glasses, click here.

Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle...
Rachel Belle

Belle: This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later

After 20 years in news radio, I'm leaving my post at KIRO Newsradio to focus on making my podcast "Your Last Meal" full-time!
3 months ago
emily post etiquette...
Rachel Belle

Emily Post’s “Etiquette” goes modern: Advice on pronouns, hugging

In 1922, Emily Post published her very first etiquette book. Since then, 18 editions have been published by five generations of Posts.
3 months ago
Rachel Belle

Combat winter blues with friluftsliv, the Nordic tradition of being outside

Friluftsliv is part of the culture in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark, places that are darker and colder than Seattle in winter.
3 months ago
small talk...
Rachel Belle

Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said they prefer silence to small talk and 89% of Gen Z use their phones to avoid making small talk.
3 months ago
(Igordoon Primus/Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

Seattle sperm bank in desperate need of Black donors

Only 2% of American sperm donors are Black men, which is causing a lot of heartache for women specifically looking for a Black donor. 
3 months ago
Photo courtesy of Rosie Grant...
Rachel Belle

Woman cooking recipes engraved on gravestones says they’re all ‘to die for’

You know that recipe your family requests at every holiday, potluck and birthday party? What if you had it engraved on your tombstone?
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
A colorblind Tacoma teen sees new colors for the first time