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Viewfinders help colorblind visitors see glory of fall foliage

J. H. Osborne • Sep 17, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Millions of travelers flock to Tennessee’s mountains each fall to catch a glimpse of the leaves changing from deep green to brilliant red, orange and gold. But not everyone is able to fully enjoy the effect of nature’s beautiful transition due to color blindness.

A couple of years ago, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development decided to do something about that and began installing colorblind viewfinders. When someone with protanopia and protanomaly (more commonly known as red-green color blindness or red-blind) looks through the specially equipped viewfinders, the technology in the lenses alleviates red-green color deficiencies — allowing them to see the brilliance that can be red, orange and gold fall foliage.

“We installed three in 2017 and expanded last year with nine more across the state,” said Amanda Murphy, director of communications for the department. “Tennessee has some of the most beautiful fall colors in the world. We wanted to ensure everyone could experience the display, including the more than 13 million color blind Americans. We developed the first scenic viewers in the world designed to help those with red-green color deficiency.”

There’s a website (www.TNfallcolor.com) that maps each of the 12 colorblind viewfinders across Tennessee. The two closest to Kingsport are one off Interstate 26 at the scenic view near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, with views looking west into Tennessee, and another at the Veterans Overlook off 25-E on Clinch Mountain, which offers a view of Cherokee Lake, Bean Station and Morristown.

Before her husband stepped up to the viewfinder, the wife of Jim Nichols said, “I see the colors and they’re florescent and beautiful and great, and I’ll say (to Jim) ‘Honey, see that?’ and he’ll say, ‘What?’ I wish he could see what I see.”

Both Nichols (who is color vision deficient) and his wife couldn’t hold back tears as he looked through the viewfinder to see the scenic beauty of the fall colors for the very first time in his life.

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