Glenn Blackwood, executive director of Memorial University’s Marine Institute, told a recent Canadian School Boards Congress in St. John’s he sits down with families of young people every September — young people with red/green colour blindness.
Blackwood said the problem seems to be more predominant among males.
He said it’s frustrating when young people have planned all their lives to enrol in programs like marine transportation, nautical science or marine engineering, but don’t pass the required colour-blindness test.
Red and green are colours used in navigation to differentiate port and starboard positions. Blackwood said the Marine Institute does everything it can to accommodate students, but there are certain challenges like this it just can’t get beyond.
“People challenge us and say, ‘I want to do this program anyway.’ They can do it, but at the end of it, they can’t work in the field,” he said.
Dr. Jane Green, a Memorial University genetics professor, says it’s difficult to know how prevalent red/green colour blindness is in this province, but some research has suggested, overall, it affects about seven to 10 per cent of males and only about 0.4 per cent of females.
Green said the reason more males are affected has to do with genes and chromosomes. The relevant gene that causes colour-blindness is on the X chromosome. Males have only one X chromosome and one Y. If the one X chromosome in a male has the mutation that causes colour-blindness, he will be colour blind, Green said, because he has nothing to match it.
“People challenge us and say, ‘I want to do this program anyway.’ They can do it, but at the end of it, they can’t work in the field,” - Glenn Blackwood said
Women, however, have two X chromosomes. In order for a female to be colour blind, Green said she would have to have the gene mutation on both of her X chromosomes.
See This would happen, page A2