Don McPherson had developed glasses to help doctors see better during laser surgery. One day during an ultimate Frisbee game, McPherson’s friend put on those glasses and told McPherson he could see the orange cones for the very first time. Seven years later that idea became Enchroma, a company that helps the colorblind see color.
Barbra Lann cried the first time she put on her Enchroma glasses.
Lann said, “It was amazing. From the minute I put them on, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just greens that I was not seeing, it was also things like blues, browns, reds.”
Chief scientist of Echroma, Don McPherson has spent thirteen years studying color vision. Designing a lens that improved color discrimination for the color blind was the first step. Understanding how the glasses helped peoples’ color vision took a lot longer. In normal color vision, blue, red, and green photo pigments are separate. With colorblindness, red and green overlap, causing colors to become muddled.
“Our filter comes in and moves it back to normal position,” explained McPherson. “Now you’re sending the correct information to the brain and those neuromechanisms, which have been dormant their entire life, are suddenly activated.”
Using CEO Andy Schmeder’s mathematical modeling expertise and three NIH grants, Enchroma was born in 2010.
“In the world, there’s an estimated two to three million that have colorblindness,” detailed Schmeder. “Right now, we’ve been able to help tens of thousands of those. It’s such a tiny, tiny percentage.”
Schmeder and McPherson hope to bring color to many more people, especially children.
A contact lens version of the glasses is currently in the works. Enchroma glasses work for about 80 percent of people with red-green colorblindness. They cost between $269 and $429 and are most easily available at www.enchroma.com.