Travel Yukon makes the northern lights more accessible for colorblind people | Tech US News

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The vivid skies of the Yukon have captivated people for centuries with the northern lights, and the amazing natural phenomenon is about to become even more accessible.

Travel Yukon has partnered with EnChroma, an American company that makes glasses to help visually impaired people see the full rainbow of colors. The unique collaboration offers colorblind travelers the ability to borrow a pair of glasses to fully witness the Northern Lights.

Robin Anderson, Travel Yukon’s director of global marketing, told CBC News that the initiative is part of a development and barrier-free strategy to make the territory more accessible and inclusive.

“If you haven’t seen pink, turquoise or green, how do you describe the northern lights,” Anderson said.

“People with color blindness can see something happening in the sky, but they don’t necessarily know the beauty of that color. . . . We don’t want anyone to be left behind and the Yukon is probably a destination where people think they have to. . . have certain physical abilities.”

The Yukon is known for its spectacular Northern Lights, as seen here in Whitehorse on October 5, 2022. Travelers and residents can witness the natural phenomenon from late August to mid-April. (Virginie Ann/CBC News)

Starting this fall, several pairs of EnChroma glasses are available, free of charge, at the Yukon Visitor Information Center in Whitehorse. Some tour operators that offer aurora viewing will also be able to request a pair whenever they have a customer with a vision impairment, Anderson added.

“We hope that people who maybe thought they couldn’t see the northern lights because they are color blind will make the trip and enjoy it,” he said.

EPIC NORTH Tour Experiences is one such tour company that can provide the spectacles for Whitehorse customers. Owner Tobias Barth said in a recent interview that he has been noticing an increase in potential customers inquiring about the glasses over the phone in recent months.

“It’s a huge game changer,” Barth said. “We have the opportunity to offer a better experience and this gives us a good feeling. They see something they probably have never seen!”

The lenses, which were originally released in 2010 in the United States before they gained traction, use special optical filters to expand the range of colors and make them more vibrant, explained EnChroma CEO Erik Ritchie.

“It works for about 80 percent of people who have red and green color blindness,” he said. “But for most people, it improves their lives, their ability to see colors.”

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, color deficiency is more common in males than females, with one in 10 males having a color deficiency, most often in reds and greens.

Ritchie said that while EnChroma is now well-versed in partnering with tourism associations around the world, discussions about people with disabilities were not part of countries’ development strategy a few years ago.

“We had to talk to institutions and schools … how to use textures, patterns, that would allow someone colorblind to see the difference,” he said, adding that the partnership with Travel Yukon is the largest in Canada.

Robin Anderson wears EnChroma glasses at the Yukon Visitor Information Center in Whitehorse on Oct. 28, 2022. Vision-impaired travelers can request a pair at the center’s front desk before heading out at night to fully witness the splendor of the Northern Lights. . (Virginie Ann/CBC News)

EnChroma also sells the glasses as part of the partnership. Ritchie said for every pair purchased, a free pair will be given to a Yukon public institution.

“By making more people aware of it, more people learn about it … understanding how big a problem it is, that will improve the lives of colorblind people.”

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