Sanibel refuge is first to unveil scope for colorblind viewers
Among the 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel will be the first to expand its accessibility initiatives to include a spotting scope for colorblind visitors.
Engineered by SeeCoast Manufacturing with EnChroma’s lens technology for color blindness, it will be unveiled at the Wildlife Drive observation tower on Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. EnChroma eyeglasses will also be available at the refuge for visitors with color vision deficiency to borrow.
Aug. 4 marks the newly declared Great American Outdoors Day in honor of the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act in August 2020. Admission to Wildlife Drive will be free that day from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“It seems fitting to honor an act that provides funding for facilities and infrastructure at national wildlife refuges and other federal public lands by broadening this refuge’s accessibility to a new audience of visitors with color vision challenges,” Supervisory refuge ranger Toni Westland said.
“The new scope and EnChroma glasses will help colorblind people experience our natural colorful beauty and wildlife as a normal-vision person would, plus the scope is wheelchair-accessible,” she added. “It’s a very exciting step for people with vision and mobility limitations.”
According to the refuge, one in 12 men (8 percent) and one in 200 women (0.5 percent) are color-vision challenged; 13 million in the United States are born with the genetic deficiency. Statistically, out of the refuge’s nearly 1 million annual visitors about 42,500 are color blind.
While people with normal color vision see more than a million hues and shades of color, those with color vision deficiency only see an estimated 10 percent of color variations, the refuge reported. As a result, their color spectrum is more limited, and their world view is duller and muted, while certain colors are difficult to differentiate from each other.
The refuge is at the forefront of public lands and cities that are bringing the new technology to change the outdoor experience for colorblind people. It is the first such public viewing scope in Florida and on any federal lands. Fewer than 20 other such scopes are available currently to the public throughout the nation.
In addition to the scope unveiling on Aug. 4, the refuge’s Wildlife on Wheels mobile outreach classroom will be open for free touring at the tower. Also, Artist-in-Residence Rachel Pierce will do a pop-up plein-air painting demonstration along the drive that illustrates the difference between colorblind and normal vision. Visitors will have the opportunity to watch her paint and meet the artist, whose year-long “residency” will culminate in an exhibit of her refuge-inspired and other works starting on Oct. 1.
“We will have color-blind people on hand at the unveiling to try the scope and EnChroma glasses for the first time and share their reactions,” Westland, who led the project to bring the scope and glasses to the refuge, said. “This follows on the heels of numerous accommodations — such as the observation tower’s accessible ramp, the lift at the Visitor & Education Center, and wheelchair accessibility on Tarpon Bay Explorers tram tours — to make visitor services at the refuge available to the greater public. EnChroma’s donation of corrective eyeglasses will allow colorblind children and adults eventually to check them out for use on Wildlife Drive.”
For more information about the Great American Outdoor Day at the refuge, visit dingdarlingsociety/articles/events.