Alfred University News

Alfred University Libraries give away four pairs of EnChroma glasses for color blindness

Alfred University has given away four pairs of glasses for color blindness made by EnChroma, a Berkeley, CA, company co-founded by Alfred University alumnus Don McPherson ’84 M.S., ’88 PhD. The glasses, which EnChroma donated, were given away as part of Alfred University’s recognition of International Color Blindness Awareness Month, observed in September.

Alfred University Libraries organized the giveaway of the EnChroma glasses over Homecoming/Fall Family Weekend, Oct. 6-8. One pair each was presented after raffles held at the home football game Oct. 7 and at Scholes and Herrick libraries, and two more were presented to Alfred University alumni, one who is also an employee of the University. It marks the second year the University has held a raffle to give away the glasses in observance of International Color Blindness Awareness Month.

“I was so excited to partner with EnChroma again this year to give away four pairs of EnChroma glasses in honor of International Colorless Awareness Month. Tabling at the Homecoming game brought a lot of community engagement. I was able to share the story of the EnChroma connection to AU through the founder, Don McPherson, and also the type of amazing impact and innovation that can come from an Alfred University degree,” said Mechele Romanchock, director of libraries.

“AU Libraries are a logical partner to share something like EnChroma glasses with the public,” Romanchock said, noting that the University has been lending EnChroma glasses to the campus community and general public for four years. EnChroma donated the glasses to Alfred University, which in turn lends them out to the public from the libraries.

“As a library, we have a process in place to loan out items that people expect to find-such as books.  But we are also accustomed to circulating all kinds of unusual things that support student learning. This was a great opportunity to bring public awareness to what we do to support our students and the wider community. Accessibility is a core value for AU Libraries.  Providing free access to EnChroma glasses for our campus community and potentially to the world of color aligns with our library values regarding accessibility and free and open access.”

The winners of the essay contest for a free pair of glasses were Kash LaPlante ’19, biology lab administrator, who entered the contest because his 6-year-old son, Carter, was recently diagnosed as being color blind, and Paige Ormiston ’99, who says her father, 1968 Alfred University alumnus Chris Junker, met her mother, Donna, a 1968 Alfred State College graduate, due to his own color blindness. LaPlante and Ormiston were among 12 people who submitted essays.

“My son, who is a first grader at Alfred-Almond Central School, was diagnosed with colorblindness last year. We've had concerns since he was 2 years old, since it runs in my wife's family, but have had trouble confirming it because of his age,” LaPlante wrote.

“Watching him struggle with identifying certain colors has been difficult as his family and support system. I know he has had difficult moments where he's been frustrated with not being able to see things the same way his friends and classmates do, and I think being able to utilize glasses like these that could give him the ability to see things differently would make his life just a little bit happier and more comforting knowing there are things and people out there trying to help a kid like him. It would mean the world to see his face when he puts them on and can see colors he's never seen before.”

LaPlante, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Alfred University, said Carter first tried on a pair of EnChroma glasses last October, before he had been diagnosed as being color blind.

“He was still getting used to figuring out his colors, so I think then he didn't really understand how (colors) looked,” LaPlante recalled. When Carter tried on the glasses he’d won last week, his excitement was obvious.

“It seemed quite surreal for him,” LaPlante said. “He put them on, looked around a bit, and I asked him to look at the Bookend Lounge sign (in Herrick Library) and he said, ‘That's blue and purple!’ He was easily able to distinguish them apart, which was not something he'd done in the past. It was a tearful moment for sure!”

Video of Carter LaPlante trying on EnChroma glasses

Ormiston, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Alfred, said that while her father and mother were in college, they attended a dance and her mother wore orange, the only color her father could see due to his color blindness. “In a sea of gray, he knew he wanted to dance with the cute girl in orange,” Ormiston wrote, explaining how her parents first met.

“I’m class of ’99 and my sister (Cheryl) is class of ’03, and we might not exist if Dad had normal color vision.  Mom helps him match up his clothes to make sure he doesn't clash when leaving the house.  Telling what color the traffic light is in bright sunshine is a pain in the neck for him. He trusts us to tell him what he's not seeing fully.  He has used EnChroma viewing binoculars at Taughannock Falls (State Park, Trumansburg, NY) so knows what he has missed.  He’s in his late 70s and it would be great for him to fully see the world around him.  I would LOVE to win a pair of these glasses to give to my dad.”

Chris Yarnal, visiting lecturer in religious studies, won his pair of EnChroma glasses after entering a raffle while visiting an EnChroma/color blindness informational display at Scholes Library. David Lata, on campus for Homecoming/Fall Family Weekend, won a pair after entering a halftime raffle drawing at the Homecoming football game.

Romanchock said more than 50 people combined participated in the drawings and essay contest for a chance to win a pair of EnChroma glasses. She said she also brought some of the glasses from the libraries’ lending program for spectators at the game to try out.

“It was fun to watch fans try them on.  I could tell some people were skeptical at first. Not everyone has the instant emotional reaction that you see on social media, but some do! But from what I have observed, others prefer to quietly take it in and process the experience more privately,” Romanchock said. “I think making them available for free through AU Libraries has made it approachable and comfortable for people to get familiar with the glasses.  Also, being able to give pairs away through the generosity of EnChroma helps to make the technology accessible.” 

EnChroma was co-founded in 2010 by Don McPherson, a co-inventor of the EnChroma lens technology. McPherson, who earned master’s and doctoral degrees in glass science engineering from Alfred University, serves as EnChroma’s chief science officer.