Thanks to some wearable new technology, two Minnesota dads gained a brighter perspective on life Friday afternoon at a greenhouse in Inver Grove Heights.
With their families nearby, Eric Zierdt and Kurt Goossen, who are colorblind, tried on new glasses designed to remedy their condition and were stunned by the vibrant colors of the flowers that surrounded them.
The two won the glasses as part of a Father’s Day colorblindness awareness campaign by EnChroma, a Berkeley, Calif., company that created them.
“Wow, everything just pops,” Goossen said as soon as he put on the glasses and saw the geraniums around him inside Gertens Greenhouse.
Goossen, 44, of Woodbury, said that for the first time, he could see the different shades on flower petals.
The two soaked in all the colors, fiddling with the glasses to check the difference between their sight with and without them.
“Holy cow, that’s a rainbow,” Goossen said as he used the glasses to look at the EnChroma box, which had a rainbow on its cover. He usually sees rainbows as purple, gray and yellow, but on Friday, he could see the full spectrum of colors on the box.
Color blindness affects about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women, according to Colour Blind Awareness, an organization founded in the United Kingdom.
Goossen learned that he was colorblind in elementary school, when he cut out a green and white Santa Claus from construction paper and brought it home. Coloring was a challenge when markers and crayons lacked labels, he said.
Zierdt, 39, of Oakdale, has a similar story. In kindergarten, he was sent to eye doctors because of his color confusion. His wife, Julia, said her husband often asks her if his outfits match.
His 14-year-old daughter, Rachel, said his colorblindness leads to comical conversations. One time the family was driving out of a parking lot when, Zierdt spotted a bird. “He said, ‘That bird is so cool,’ ” she said. “It was literally a brown bird. It’s hard to put myself in his shoes.”
Julia said her husband can be quite stubborn about the colors he sees, even when family members disagree with him. “When we first met, I didn’t realize how much he relied on me to tell him things look great,” she said.
Colorblindness can be an obstacle to more serious ventures than choosing outfits. During 25 years in the Air Force, Goossen found his career options limited. Luckily, he said, his recruiter was also colorblind and steered him into working on a logistics team, where color was not a key factor.
“That was one of the beauties of being in the military, not having to worry about what I would wear at work that day,” said Goossen, who recently retired from the Air Force.
Zierdt dreamed of being a pilot until he realized he was colorblind. He now works as a database architect for Boston Scientific.
The two men said they’re tired of pointing out colors to people who learn they are colorblind and are curious about what they see. They hope the glasses will change that.
They both have plans for their new glasses.
“I can’t wait to get out on a golf course,” Goossen said. “I will no longer have an excuse to miss a putt.”