Viewfinders unveil fall colors for the colorblind
Viewfinders unveil fall colors for the colorblind This Oct. 26, 2017 photo shows Amber McCarter, a 22-year-old from Tennessee who is colorblind, looking out from Mt. Harrison at the Ober Gatlinburg resort through a viewfinder designed to help see more colors. (AP Photo/Jonathan Matisse/Flickr)
Viewfinders unveil fall colors for the colorblind
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The Great Smoky Mountains always looked dull black and tawny to Lauren Van Lew from the 3,590-foot-high perch of Mt. Harrison. That was true even when the rugged expanses were bursting with their famous fall colors. 

For the 20-year-old Van Lew, who has been colorblind her whole life, some colors have just been left to the imagination. She loves painting, but her wife Molly has to help her pick and mix colors.

Last week, however, Van Lew visited the scenic mountaintop again. She looked through a special viewfinder. For the first time she saw yellows, oranges and reds. They were exploding across the landscape.

"Red was the biggest difference. I mean, I can't describe it," said Van Lew. She lives in Sevierville, Tennessee. "It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. That red, it's just gorgeous. It's incredible."

She wondered, "How do you see like that all of the time?"

A colorblind viewfinder was installed atop the Ober Gatlinburg resort. It was installed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. It is one of three in the state that debuted last Wednesday, letting people gaze upon colors that they may have never seen before. The other two viewfinders are at scenic areas of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Oneida, and at the westbound Interstate 26 overlook near Erwin in Unicoi County.

Although the technology isn't new - eyeglasses that let colorblind people see colors are already available - state officials believe this is the first time it's been incorporated into a viewfinder. They cost $2,000 apiece. They help people with red-green color deficiencies. How crisply the viewfinders display new colors can vary from person to person among the 13 million or so people in the country with color deficiencies.

State tourism officials invited people to try it out last Thursday at Ober Gatlinburg, bringing them up by ski-lift, but leaving the details somewhat vague to maintain the element of surprise. A crew filmed their reactions for marketing material.

Their first glimpses drew tears, smiles and faces stunned by wonder and awe.

"My heart just started beating fast," said Todd Heil, who generally sees a lot of green. "I felt like crying, man. Too many people around."

Amber McCarter works in real estate, so part of her pitch is the fall foliage that drapes the Great Smoky Mountains, even though she can't entirely see it herself. The viewfinder gave her a firsthand look of the views she's been selling.

"It's like, if you want to go see a show somewhere, you don't want to hear from somebody whose family went. You want to hear from somebody who actually went," the 22-year-old said.

For Van Lew, nothing looks the same now. It can be a little disheartening to know what she's been missing. But the possibility of tapping into a long unseen world of vibrant color is uplifting, she added.

"It's going to enable more people to experience the beauty that we live in, that I didn't know we lived in," she said.

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Why are leaves a good subject for viewfinder?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • JosephF-del
    11/10/2017 - 01:27 p.m.

    It is a good subject for viewfinder because leaves are many different colors. This allows the user to see all the colors.

  • CadenceG-del
    11/10/2017 - 02:41 p.m.

    This article shows adaptive technology. This helps people who can’t see in color see in color. This is a very helpful invention and should be used by people.

  • JasminderK-del
    11/10/2017 - 05:52 p.m.

    leaves are a good subject for viewfinder because of their bright and vivid colors that colorblind people aren't able to usually see, this is a great invention because it helps colorblind people see the full spectrum of colors.

  • EmilyN-del1
    11/11/2017 - 01:58 p.m.

    I think it is very nice that colorblind people get to see the beauty of the Mountains and leaves. I could not imagine not being able to see color. I love to paint and color picture and not being able to see the beauty of the picture would be horrible.

  • SarahT-del
    11/11/2017 - 05:49 p.m.

    This technology is adaptive to people such as Lauren Van Lew can see things although they are colorblind. It can change a life and work miracles now. Van lew had said nothing is the same for her anymore because now she sees what we can see for the first time.

  • WilliamF-del
    11/11/2017 - 05:51 p.m.

    Wow. This is awesome. Color blind people are no longer colorblind.....
    It's really cool that color blind people can go to see colors that we take granted of. I hope we can continue this until all the color blind people can see vibrant colors!

  • RushB-del
    11/11/2017 - 08:24 p.m.

    Leaves are a good subject for viewfinder because of how the leaves change and the intricate/vibrant color they make while changing, also because of the sight of seeing nature blended in with colors you have never quite seen before.

  • GabriellaJ-del
    11/12/2017 - 11:27 a.m.

    this kind of technology is helpful to others because its allows people to see a new perspective of life.

  • JuliaA -del
    11/12/2017 - 02:03 p.m.

    The type of technology the viewfinders find assistive/adaptive. Since this invention, Lauren Van Lew and other colorblind people discovered colors that they haven't seen yet. This invention basically helps the colorblind see colors they don't originally see when they don't have these glasses. The colorblind community were very happy with this invention and it helped a lot.

  • PoojaT-del
    11/12/2017 - 05:19 p.m.

    This was a great article to read. It is very sad if you can't see color. But at the end people do see color, which is so amazing.

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