Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Chau Chak Wing Museum in Australia offers color blind guests greater accessibility

Since April of 2022, museum guests who are red-green color blind can borrow special EnChroma glasses from the Chau Chak Wing Museum and experience exhibitions – for example the vast array of blue hues in the Coastlines exhibition – in clear, vibrant color for the first time.

“The accessibility of art and design is always top of mind at the Chau Chak Wing Museum and we are very pleased to be the first venue in Australia to offer this technology through EnChroma’s Color Accessibility Program,” said Dr Paul Donnelly, Deputy Director of the Museum.

“This partnership is another important step forward in our inclusivity goals, helping people who are color blind to experience the full wonder and vibrancy of the exhibitions we have on offer.”

One in 12 men (8 percent) and one in 200 women (0.5 percent) are color vision deficient; an estimated 350 million people worldwide. More than one million Australians are color blind, as are over 3,500 of the 83,000 students and staff at the University of Sydney. While people with normal color vision see over one million shades of color, those with color vision deficiency only see an estimated 10 percent of hues and shades. As a result, colors can appear dull, indistinct, and difficult to discern.

Museum regular visitor Tim Robinson gets a whole new view.

Tim Robinson was among the first to try the glasses in the museum. “I’m a regular visitor to the Museum and know lots of the works well. But I saw many of them in a completely new way for the first time – with different colors and depth and clarity. I have problems with blue and purple so the beach and sky in the paintings of Sydney Harbor, for example, were much more clearly defined.”

“But most impressive was revisiting the Museum’s Egyptian Galleries again – I’ve always been fascinated by archaeology so it was fantastic to see the full range of colors. I wish I’d had these when I toured Egypt.”

South Sea Beauty by Nicholas Chevalier, 1881, Chau Chak Wing Museum. Left image example of those with color blindness. Right image after wearing glasses.

David Eliovson said the glasses gave him a greater appreciation for the skill of artists. “When I look at South Sea Beauty with the glasses on I can see all the variations in how Chevalier has painted the green sea and how some shades of color are vividly brighter than others, adding to the overall effect.”

“The biggest wow moment was when I looked at a bridal skirt from Papua New Guinea. Without the glasses, I thought the skirt was a dull reddish color that had faded with age. With them on I realized that it is bright red and has been wonderfully preserved from the 1970s.”

A museum fan who once spent a 12-hour layover in New York visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, David supports making the glasses available in museums more widely.

Bright red “bridal skirt” from Papua New Guinea, Chau Chak Wing Museum

“We are excited to collaborate with the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum to make its colorful works accessible to those with color blindness. We encourage other museums, universities and public institutions in Australia to support accessibility as well.” said Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma.

EnChroma’s patented lens technology is engineered with special optical filters that enable people with red-green color blindness to see an expanded range of colors more vibrantly, clearly and distinctly. A study by the University of California, Davis, and France’s INSERM Stem Cell and Brain Research Institute, published in the scholarly journal Current Biology, demonstrated the effectiveness of EnChroma glasses.

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