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Old 30-07-2011, 02:35   #1
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Colour Blindness and Certification

I am an RYA sailing instructor and have recently come across a curious problem. In the class I have been teaching there are 4 students who are colour blind. They have all mastered the practical aspects of boat handling. However they are having serious difficulties with light and bouy identification. I don't want to fail otherwise good potential sailors, however it is looking a distinct possibility at the moment. I have tried the coloured lenses trick with them to no effect. The RYA do not have any other solutions.

So my question is can a colour blind sailor navigate safely?

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Old 30-07-2011, 02:44   #2
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Red and green buoys are different shapes and can be identified by shape. Not to mention the numbers as well

Lights should be able to be identified by their flash rate as well as the shape of the buoy
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Old 30-07-2011, 03:13   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailagain
Red and green buoys are different shapes and can be identified by shape. Not to mention the numbers as well

Lights should be able to be identified by their flash rate as well as the shape of the buoy
They can all take a logical guess at the buoy type by a process of elimination. However they cannot pass the col regs identification of vessels at night. There are other issues not just limited to col regs. Such as port traffic light systems, safe water marks, danger marks etc. I suspect they are totally colour blind not just red / green. Although strangely they can all distinguish red from green singly but not when presented against a backdrop of various lights.
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Old 30-07-2011, 03:14   #4
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Re: Colour blindness & certification

There are several types and severities of color vision defects. Some 8% of males have a color vision defect so unfortunately its a common problem.
A color defective skipper will be less safe than an identical person without the defect. The difficulty is drawing a sensible dividing line.
IMHO a color vision defective observer is not safe on solo watch (without a person with normal color vision available) at night. They are also not acceptable in a commercial situation.
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Old 30-07-2011, 03:30   #5
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Originally Posted by russcannell
However they are having serious difficulties with light and bouy identification.

So my question is can a colour blind sailor navigate safely?

Cheers

Russ
So are they having serious issues with buoy identification? You second post seems to indicate they do not

I am not familiar with the your classes of certification - and what they would relate to in the US. Is this class they taking for commercial certification, or just a basic starting out noncommercial class?
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Old 30-07-2011, 03:44   #6
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Re: Colour blindness & certification

I am Red / Green colour blind. During the day whilst there is plenty of background light around it is not an issue, however at night without any background light then I have a problem. After failing the Ishihara plates, I sat the Holmes lantern test which you require for Commercial qualifications. I failed and decided not to pursue a career in Sailing / Aviation and became a Diving instructor instead.You can get a restricted 'day time' endorsement.
As far as I was aware you did not have to sit these test for recreational qualifications. ( this was about 15 years ago, so things may have changed ).
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Old 30-07-2011, 03:57   #7
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Originally Posted by Sailagain

So are they having serious issues with buoy identification? You second post seems to indicate they do not

I am not familiar with the your classes of certification - and what they would relate to in the US. Is this class they taking for commercial certification, or just a basic starting out noncommercial class?
It's the RYA Coastal skipper course, all of the candidates have had some sailing and navigation experience prior to signing onto the course. None of the colour blind candidates were aware that they had a problem with colour vision. The Coastal skipper course is for non commerical recreational craft only. This course is commonly taken to provide a competence check for those skippers who wish to undertake night passages for the first time. All of the candiates have passed basic navigation checks in the past. However the Coastal skipper checks are much more onerous. This is where the problem is. The detail of the examination delves into specific regions of light identification. This was when I first discovered a problem with the 4 candidates.
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Old 30-07-2011, 04:03   #8
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Re: Colour blindness & certification

Quote:
Originally Posted by russcannell View Post
I suspect they are totally colour blind not just red / green. Although strangely they can all distinguish red from green singly but not when presented against a backdrop of various lights.
No color vision at all is very rare most people with this condition have very poor general vision and will be legally blind.
Even with reasonably severe color vision defects subjects can detect red and green when presented with saturated bright large objects in good illumination. Unfortunately sailing usually requires color identification in less than optimum conditions. Some types of color defects reduce the luminosity of red and these subjects, in some circumstances, will have difficulty detecting not only the color, but cannot detect there is any mark at all.
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Old 30-07-2011, 04:24   #9
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Originally Posted by russcannell

This course is commonly taken to provide a competence check for those skippers who wish to undertake night passages for the first time. All of the candiates have passed basic navigation checks in the past. However the Coastal skipper checks are much more onerous. This is where the problem is. The detail of the examination delves into specific regions of light identification. This was when I first discovered a problem with the 4 candidates.
Just from that information - I would not feel comfortable if they were sailing near me at night. If they couldn't tell which direction I was sailing because they couldn't tell my red from green light. It doesn't sound like they can pass the course. From your first post I didn't realize it was a more advanced class. If this class requires the ability to navigate at night - it doesn't sound like they can pass.

Unless someone has better ideas....
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Old 30-07-2011, 05:09   #10
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Re: Colour blindness & certification

Thats perhaps a little melodramatic. Never been a problem for me, there is usually enough ambient light to discern which direction the other boat is travelling.If not I would ask the other crew.
I suppose you could make a case against a colour blind sailor solo sailing at night (though I do not sail solo). For a solo sailor a quick call up on the VHF would probably resolve the question.Of course there is also GPS & AIS would would also help
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Old 30-07-2011, 05:28   #11
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Originally Posted by scubastu
Thats perhaps a little melodramatic. Never been a problem for me, there is usually enough ambient light to discern which direction the other boat is travelling.If not I would ask the other crew.
I suppose you could make a case against a colour blind sailor solo sailing at night (though I do not sail solo). For a solo sailor a quick call up on the VHF would probably resolve the question.Of course there is also GPS & AIS would would also help
I guess it is possible - but you are going to have to rely on other methods. Does that mean the certification of the class in question should be granted if they can't complete the required identifications on their own - without assistance outside the certification parameters?
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Old 30-07-2011, 05:40   #12
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Re: Colour blindness & certification

The OP is a member of the RYA, so should be a simple matter of contacting HQ to get an answer - would be interested to hear what it is.
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Old 30-07-2011, 06:09   #13
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The OP is a member of the RYA, so should be a simple matter of contacting HQ to get an answer - would be interested to hear what it is.
Already done so. The answer is if they cannot complete all the modules to the required standard then the result is a fail. However the test does not state that they cannot use artifical aids whatever that means..! Unfortunately the test is a classroom theory one conducted by a pc projecting various lights onto a screen which the candidate has to correctly identify. The dilemma is that the candidates may well guess the correct combination and I would be duty bound to give a pass mark even though I knew there to be a problem. Now I don't want to give the impression that I am discriminating against colour blindness per se. It's just that I don't feel comfortable issuing a certificate when I know there may be problems for the candidate in the future. The coloured lenses only helped one person to correctly identify the lights it did nothing for the rest. The practical part of the examination is really just a general sailing & nav check which they all passed albeit with some help. Now if anyone knows of any devices or methods to overcome this problem I would love to hear it. I really don't want to dissapoint these candidates if I can help it.
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Old 30-07-2011, 06:53   #14
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Re: Colour blindness & certification

Aren't there degrees of color blindness, in which "red" for example could be anything from crimson to fire engine red, to the viewer. Red over white, might be different to 2 crew, but still a form of red over white.
Vehicle licenses are issued to aflicted drivers.
My son, a four degree'd university grad, is totally blind from birth, but tells me he understands the concept of colors.
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Old 30-07-2011, 12:21   #15
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Aren't there degrees of color blindness, in which "red" for example could be anything from crimson to fire engine red, to the viewer. Red over white, might be different to 2 crew, but still a form of red over white.
Vehicle licenses are issued to aflicted drivers.
My son, a four degree'd university grad, is totally blind from birth, but tells me he understands the concept of colors.
Interesting theory so a colour blind person can drive an HGV but not a little sail boat..!! I wonder which is the more hazardous? More to the point how does the group feel about issuing certification to a colour blind person given that they may encounter them in a conflict situation on the water. Having said that would it be right to deny them the opportunity of a sailing qualification based on an apparent disability. With 8% of the population affected by colour blindness. There must be a substantial number of leisure sailors out there sailing quite happily and unaware of the problem.
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