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Tennessee Tourism Offers Those With Color Blindness (Protanopia) the Chance to See the Leaves Change Colors For The First Time

Even colorblind tourists can experience the splendor of the season with these hi-tech viewers.

Written by Chris Chamberlain
Tennessee Tourism Offers Those With Color Blindness (Protanopia) the Chance to See the Leaves Change Colors For The First Time
Colorblind viewfinder located in the Smoky Mountains; Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourism

Despite the fact that the almost total lack of rain during the month of September means that this year’s fall might be more of a “fell” as some trees gave up the ghost early with their leaves turning straight to brown and falling to the ground, autumn in Tennessee should still be spectacular in many places. With a wide variety of trees showing off their red, gold and yellow hues, fall landscapes in the state are spectacular from the Mississippi River in the west to the Smoky Mountains on the east side. The Tennessee Department of Tourism has created a guide to where (and specifically when) to visit to catch the fall foliage at the absolute peak of color, whether you’d like to see the Pin Oaks of Reelfoot Lake in early November or the crimson Maples of East Tennessee in late October.

In an innovative initiative, the State of Tennessee has thoughtfully provided special viewfinders for visitors who have color vision deficiencies, specifically the inability to distinguish between red and green, the two main colors when it comes to leaves. The medical terms for this disorder are protanopia and protanomaly, which is nicer than the old phrase “color blindness,” which isn’t really descriptive of the phenomenon. People with this condition aren’t blind; they just have difficulty distinguishing between red and green and instead just see slight variances in contrast between the colors.

The State has invested in a dozen special viewfinders with hi-tech EnChroma lenses engineered with spectral lens technology to allow those afflicted with color blindness to experience and share the vibrant colors of the fall for the first time. They’ve also created a video to show what happened when a group of people took their first peek through the viewfinders. Their emotional reactions to really seeing fall are quite dramatic and remind the rest of us how lucky we are to be able to experience the beauty of Tennessee in the fall.

The special viewfinders have been placed at some of the most breathtaking vistas in the state including in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, the Cherohala Skyway, Fall Creek Falls State Park and Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. Whether you need the EnChroma viewfinders or not, this list of their placements is a great guide to where to catch the most beautiful views in Tennessee. Make plans to hit the Great Outdoors soon to catch peak leaves, and if you happen to know someone who has color vision issues, consider taking them along for a unique experience!