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

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

  • ZofiaT-del
    11/12/2017 - 05:46 p.m.

    The viewfinders are adaptive/assistive. They help colorblind people see colors for the first time. If you look into the glasses long enough, colors will appear for a while. It helps colorblind people live their life with colors.

  • AngelinaB-del
    11/12/2017 - 08:18 p.m.

    Viewfinders help color-blind people see colors. It is located on top of the Ober Gatlinburg resort. It was installed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. It is one of three in the state. It helps people with red-green color deficiencies. When someone color-blind sees the view from a viewfinder, they'll literally cry. This is because seeing color for the first time can be the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

  • CherM-del
    11/12/2017 - 09:46 p.m.

    This is futuristic technology and will effect thousands of lives worldwide. It is a very modern and new invention that I hope will help people's eyesight and there lives. It will make a big impact on there lives daily.

  • EthanG-del1
    11/12/2017 - 11:33 p.m.

    It is great technology.

  • SaraM-del
    11/13/2017 - 04:10 p.m.

    the technology is very helpful.It lets people see many things.

  • EsmeraldaV-del
    11/13/2017 - 05:21 p.m.

    Theres a new invention that is insanely helpful. Theres something called a "colorblind viewfinder" that helps people who are colorblind see more efficiently with colors like red,orange,yellow, etc. According to the passage, this might be the first time the the eyeglass is combined with a viewfinder!

  • ChloeR-del
    11/13/2017 - 06:04 p.m.

    Leaves are a good subject for viewfinders. Leaves have multiple different colors during the fall like yellow, red, and orange. But colorblind people see them as if it is still the summer (green). They are now seeing new colors that make them feel super happy.

  • SamanthaM-del1
    11/13/2017 - 06:35 p.m.

    leaves have many purposes, such as - being able to tell what season it is by their color and studying their cells.

  • DevanS-del
    11/13/2017 - 07:01 p.m.

    I think this the right step into the future. As you read, this new invention is bringing smiles and wonder to people's faces. if more inventions like this were created everyday the world would be such a happier place. Who knew leaves could have such an impact on people.

  • TiffanyW-del
    11/13/2017 - 07:55 p.m.

    Leaves are a good subject for viewfinder because it helps the colorblind see different colors (ones they can’t see)

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