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  • Medical conditions

    I am interested in firefighting, but I have a very mild color deficiency. Most department's medical physicals require a color vision test, which usually is the Ishihara test. I am unable to see all the numbers in all the tests, and therefore I do not get a passing grade (10 out of 14 correct). On some tests I can see numbers that I am not suppose to see because of my color deficiency, which proves that my color defiency is very mild.

    Do you think this will prohibit my chance of being a firefighter? I see all basic colors with no problem and my doctor has also said I am right around the normal area for color vision. Also, why do firefighters need to pass a color vision test when most work related areas only require basic color recognition?

    Thanks for the help!

  • #2
    color vision

    You can get a red tinted "colormax" lens to help correct your color vision problems. There are also sites online that offer the isihara tests for free and you can use them to "study" what numbers you are supposed to see so you can pass the test. I know someone that did this, got hired and has had absolutely NO PROBLEMS at any point on the job (related to color vision that is). Is it cheating or unethical?..I'll leave that up to you. Is it worth it to get your dream job? I think so, but that's just me. By the way, many PD's/FD's are doing away with the CV test all together or are just going with traffic signal color recognition tests. Good luck to you.


    • #3
      I have never heard of any departments doing a color blind test, they do however require your vision to be corrected to 20/40 minumum with corrective lenses. This can be a very touchy subject because of the ADA(Americans with Disabilties act) the department has to make reasonable accommodations for certain problems. I would ask someone if they will do this for you ....can't hurt. Good luck!
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      Mike IAFF

      The beatings will continue until the morale improves


      • #4


        Yea, it depends on the department.

        For some time, we have been following the progress of ColorMax lenses since the FDA approved them for sale in November. "Colorblind" people--"color deficient" is considered a more accurate term because most of them can see some colors. The genetic defect that causes the visual problem makes it more common in men. Some colorblindness affects about one in 12 men and one in 200 women.

        Just had a candidate who had the ColorMax lenses. His buddies convinced him that he could some how slip the lenses in befor the test and pass. It didn't happen. He had checked off on his application that he had no vision problems. Had he had a top vision specialist find him fit for duty with one lense and given him a letter, he could have produced the letter during the test and might have made it through. You do know if you state no and they find out later, you're immediately eliminated from the process.

        One of our candidates was concerned about the color deficient test. Though he had some color deficiency, to his surprise he could identify those colors (they used a multi colored stuffed animal) that the department was testing for.

        ColorMax glasses give a patient with color vision problems an option for both subjective and objective tasks they might not otherwise be able to do. But it's highly individualized. Some people do great with it, and others don't get much out of it, and other don't like it. But everybody gets some effect with the glasses which cost up to $700. Some people go from seeing five colors to seeing 14.

        It's not known whether fire department gatekeepers and other agencies that require good color vision will accept people wearing ColorMax glasses. The FAA does not see these lenses as an acceptable substitute for color vision at this time.

        There is a rumor that these lenses can be incorporated into contact lenses. Only one lense will have the coating. It could take up to 6 months to go through the break in period with the contacts.

        This from a candidate:

        I am color deficient as well. I have what's called a red green deutan. I got the contact lens (only one needed) and when going through the ishihara test (which is the one most use)I pass with the lens. Only problem is that most places don't allow you to test with any correction, both color or regular. Also there is an issue with wearing contacts in a HAZMAT situation-

        The latest NFPA standards 1582 for 2000 have an update in the vision section which states that color blindness will be considerred on a case by case basis. It was great to see that but also stinks because each department has different standards. You start to find out which departments are more lax than others. Ventura for example is very cool about the issue and has alternate tests such as the farnsworth 15 which is easier to pass. LA City however is very strict and closeminded to the issue. Only way to beat them is to cheat and I don't want to do that.

        It's a tough spot because you can't just go to an expert in the field and get an checkup because every department has different standards in this topic. You have to actually go through a medical to see how much of an issue it really is going to be. Hopefully this will all change soon.

        "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . absolutely nothing!

        "Captain Bob"


        "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

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