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Sticking with Red and Green Transit Lines ‘Offensive’ to Colour-Blind People, Says Advocate

Ottawa Citizen
Jon Willing, October 17, 2016

OC Transpo is using two colours to differentiate the Confederation Line LRT and Trillium Line. It might cause problems for people who have a red-green colour blindness, an advocate says.

OC Transpo is confident the red and green lines marking the O-Train Confederation Line and Trillium Line on a new rail map won’t cause problems for people with a specific form of colour blindness.

Pat Scrimgeour, Transpo’s director of customer systems and planning, said all transit signage was reviewed using the city’s and the province’s accessibility standards.

However, an advocate for people who are colour blind can’t believe Transpo is sticking with the red and green line colours to differentiate the east-west and north-south rail routes.

Kathryn Albany-Ward, president of the England-based Colour Blindness Awareness, said using the shades of red and green is a “bad idea” because it discriminates against people with a green vision deficiency.

People who have red-green colour blindness have difficulty distinguishing between the two colours.

“Knowing this and still using these colours is effectively saying to colour blind citizens that the City of Ottawa cares not one jot about them and they don’t care whether or not they can use the system easily. That’s offensive,” Albany-Ward said in an e-mail.

“Common sense says don’t use these colours, whether or not the law refers to colour blindness.”

Albany-Ward first brought up the potential problem with the transit map in 2014 when Transpo first unveiled the draft design. Ottawa’s transit commission is receiving a report this week confirming the colour scheme for the Confederation Line and Trillium Line.

Transpo believes it has done sufficient work to make sure the transit map won’t confuse customers with vision disabilities.

“The colour palette used for signage and wayfinding has been tested to assure sufficient contrast for readers with most forms of red-green colour blindness,” Scrimgeour said.

It might be too early to know how the map will work in practice at transit stations. The version provided to the transit commission isn’t production-quality.

“All maps and signs produced and installed on the OC Transpo network will meet accessibility requirements and will provide sufficient contrast for readers with most forms of red-green colour blindness,” Scrimgeour said.

Clear representation of colour isn’t possible on LED signs, he noted. The line numbering 1 for Confederation Line and 2 for Trillium Line supplements the colour scheme.

Albany-Ward said the different numbers for the lines might help, but a better solution would be making one of the lines a pattern.
“Good practice is to account for the most severe forms, which total 25 per cent of all cases of red and green colour blindness,” Albany-Ward said. “If they did that then everyone with colour blindness could easily tell the lines apart.”

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