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Student surprises teacher with color-correcting glasses

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 18, 2019

 Rochester High School teacher  Jeff Haney tries on his new color-correcting glasses as his sophomore daughter, Dru, looks on.

Rochester High School teacher Jeff Haney tries on his new color-correcting glasses as his sophomore daughter, Dru, looks on.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Rochester HIgh School sophomore Shane Arbour  shows teacher Jeff Haney a box of colorful ribbons as Haney tests out his new color-correcting glasses for the first time.

Rochester HIgh School sophomore Shane Arbour shows teacher Jeff Haney a box of colorful ribbons as Haney tests out his new color-correcting glasses for the first time.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROCHESTER — What most people see as a pair of rose-colored glasses instantly reveals a whole new world for Rochester High School teacher Jeff Haney.

“I see brightness,” Haney said. “I keep wanting to take my regular glasses and put them back on so I can see the difference. I think your mind is just used to what you see, so you don’t know what you don’t know.”

On Dec. 6, one of Haney’s students, sophomore Shane Arbour, surprised him with color-correcting glasses from EnChroma during class, allowing him to fully see color for the first time in his life.

“Oh wow. This is interesting,” he said. “This is what you guys see all the time?”

As a child, Haney detested the color green. So, when his mother bought him a much-needed new pair of pants, he quickly hid them in the back of his closet, refusing to wear them because of their color.

When his mom uncovered the untouched pants months later and asked her son why he hadn’t worn them, he said, “Mom, you know I don’t like green. I’m not going to wear those green pants.” To which she replied, “Jeff, these are navy blue.”

That was the day Haney learned he was colorblind, which was confirmed after vision testing.

Those who are colorblind — a condition also known as color vision deficiency — have a decreased ability to see color or detect differences in color, making even the simplest of activities, including choosing and preparing food, gardening, playing sports, driving a car and selecting which clothes to wear, a challenge.

“You never have complete confidence that what you’re wearing matches,” Haney said. “That’s why I wear simple things that I don’t have to worry about matching. Anytime I’m wearing anything that has a pattern, I have to make sure that I ask someone in my family if it matches. Purples and navys, those give me some issues.”

As the varsity girls golf coach at Rochester High School, Haney said he has vision trouble on the green.

“If there is anything red, it’s hard for me to see. I like Coca-Cola, so if I drop my red bottle cap on the ground, I have a hard time finding it,” he said. “One year, my golf team bought me a bag and filled it with red tees, because they know when I play golf and I hit a ball and the tee pops out of the ground, it’s hard for me to find it. Someone always has to point it out to me.”

But he’s learned to adapt to his vision challenges over the years.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people who have it worse than I do, but it’s always been an issue for me,” he said.

While people with normal color vision can see up to 1 million distinct shades of color, those who are colorblind can only see about 2%-10% of that. To them, the world may appear muted or washed out, and some colors, like purple and blue, are indistinguishable.

Arbour learned about color blindness while creating websites in his web development and social media class with teacher Karen Malsbury and decided to secure a pair of color-correcting glasses for Haney.

“Mr. Haney has been such a great teacher to me,” said Arbour. “It really shocked me with how little he acknowledges his colorblindness and complains about it.”

The company that makes the glasses says the lens technology “selectively filters out wavelengths of light” to increase the contrast between red and green, the two colors that are difficult to distinguish in the most common form of color blindness. Approximately 350 million people in the world are red-green colorblind.

Now the teacher will happily become the student as he learns to distinguish different colors with his new glasses.

“I would never guess that I would have the opportunity, besides just being able to try these on, to have these,” Haney said of the glasses. “It means a lot.”

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