December 17, 2008

Supporting colorblind accesibility in CS4

One of the sleeper features in Photoshop CS4 is new support for simulating color
blindness.  My fellow PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes managed the development of the feature, so I invited him to share more info in a guest blog post. Read on for details.  –J.


 

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I’m color deficient, specifically in perceiving the narrow spectrum of colors between some shades of blue and green. I’m not alone. The vision of 7-10% of males in the US are similarly deficient (as are nearly half of the male portion of DI Pro Product Management! I’m not naming names).  ["Not it."  --J.]  It hasn’t held me back; in fact, I used to print for a custom lab and I’ve been involved in professional imaging in one capacity or another for the last fourteen years. Like a lot of handicaps, you learn to work around it (and ask your wife’s advice before getting dressed ;-)).

 

1-3% of the world’s population (again, mostly male and varying in frequency by geography) is truly color blind. These folks are missing entire portions of the color spectrum…and often have no notion of red, green, purple, etc. For these individuals, the handicap is more than an inconvenience–it can be frustrating and dangerous.

 

Adobe has collaborated with the University of Tokyo and the Industrial Research Institute of Ishikawa to employ proofing abilities into Photoshop CS4 (and Illustrator CS4) that leverage CUDO (Color Universal Design Organization) technology for simulation of constrained color gamuts. These powers are baked into the profiles used by the Adobe Color Engine.  In order to see colors as a protanopia (absence of red photoreceptors) or deuteranopia (absence of green photoreceptors) user would, simply select View/Proof Setup and the type of color blindness. We support the two most common forms of severe dichromacy, these two account for the large majority of such cases.

 

To try the feature yourself, choose a rainbow image from the web and change proof setup. Here’s a sample image, displayed three times Photoshop–once with a regular color profile, and once each with protanopia and deuteranopia profiles applied.

 

Considering just how many people are affected worldwide and that this technology was both expensive and not deeply integrated prior, this is an important step forward for accessibility in Adobe applications. While seeing photos and web sites as ALL users do is very important, imagine what this means to things like maps, GPS devices, ATMs, forms, medical materials, etc.

 

For more information:

Posted by John Nack at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2008

Comments

  • Charles — 10:42 PM on December 17, 2008

    What is next, Soundbooth for the deaf?

  • Benoît — 8:08 AM on December 18, 2008

    I’m color deficient as well. Digital color photography and Photoshop have helped me work around the defiency… I swear that I recognize more colors now.
    Anyway it’s good to see that Adobe is taking these issues seriously and is developing tools to assist designers improve their work in that respect.

  • Adam W. — 9:13 AM on December 18, 2008

    Charles doesn’t seem to understand how big an issue this is in the fields of information graphics and, particularly, cartography. I’m glad that this is built into PS now, but for all other programs and to aid in picking swatches, etc., you can’t go wrong with Color Oracle (http://colororacle.cartography.ch/)

  • Tom — 3:46 PM on December 19, 2008

    Sigh. The logical place for a colorblind-simulation mode is in the graphics driver, so every app doesn’t have to implement its own. Unfortunately, we all know how bad the graphics card vendors are at writing code …

  • Robin — 10:04 PM on December 22, 2008

    Thanks for posting this. I have red/green color blindness.

  • Alan Sonneman — 11:41 AM on December 24, 2008

    Am I missing something here. As a color deficient person, this tab adds color not diminishes it. As far as I can tell these settings simulate for the normal viewer what it is like to be color blind not compensate for being color deficient. Any suggestions as to other sources to find ways to compensate your work flow for this problem?

  • Sebastiaen — 3:50 AM on January 16, 2009

    hey thanks for the article!
    On the sample image I can see no difference between the left and the midle one, and the one on the right just has less saturated colors.
    What does this mean for me?

  • Barrie Tumbridge — 8:56 AM on February 17, 2009

    I have lived with colour blindness for more than 50 years and have been a photographer for nearly 40. I believe it is important that others see the problem, especially web designers. Adobe demonstrate their usual insight in including this in CS4.

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