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A universal language for colour-blindness

SIC spoke with Miguel Neiva, 1 of the 4 winners of the 6th edition of the Social Innovation Tournament hosted by the European Investment Bank this year in Latvia, Riga. He shares his project ColorADD, a tool designed to lift limitations felt in daily life, such as school classes, by people who are colour-blind. 


Tell us a bit about your project and what inspired you to do this work

In 2000, when I first had the idea of creating a colour identification system for colour-blind, I confess that if someone asked me if I had an idea of the impact it would have all around the world, the answer would simply be: No! I had no idea.

But I was sure that the challenge was an ambitious one. I tried to always follow a sustainable, transparent path, made side-by-side with those who could see their lives eased by a tool capable of “including without discriminating”!

And it was based on these assumptions that the ColorADD code gained dimension. We wanted it to be available for all, and with all this, our ambition grew stronger and was supported by the users who, in their daily activity, use this support, giving life and brightness to the colours they communicate.

We have to consider that, nowadays, 90% of the communication is made through colour. It is estimated that 350 million people, corresponding to 10% of the world’s male population, is colour-blind.

ColorADD Code is a colour identification system, elected by the Brazilian magazine “Galileu” as “one of the 40 ideas that will change the world”.

Universal, transversal and inclusive, the ColorADD Code was developed taking into consideration the three primary colours, represented by three graphic symbols which, combined in the accordance with the basic concept of colour addiction, allow people with colour identification limitations, namely the colour-blind, to easily identify all the colours.

The Code becomes a simple “mental game”, easy to memorize and to use in daily situations, allowing colour-blind people to easily identify colours whenever they are an element of guidance or decision.

In 2012, we created a non-profit association dedicated to promoting social integration of people with difficulties in identifying colours, especially of the colour-blind, through the adoption of the ColorADD code - ColorADD.Social. Its main concern is to raise awareness about the disability, especially within the school community, training, and technically/socially supporting/accompanying educationally inclusive projects. This will contribute to more inclusive schools, promoting the early screening of colour-blindness in childhood, and help people with visual deficiencies colour gain a more normal access to libraries and school classes.

The option of using the code, while a complementary system to maps, images or schemes sub-titling, is based on a simple, intuitive and easy to memorize criteria, making it a tool which, in school environment and specially in evaluation situations, allows including without discriminating.


Can you tell us the defining moment where you saw the impact of your project?

I think that the most defining moment where I saw the impact of my project was when I started seeing society embracing this project and making it their own!

ColorADD has received several awards and distinctions from very different and important entities, both national and international:

From Ashoka, I’m the first Portuguese Ashoka Fellow … the guarantee of Social Validation;

From the Zero Project, powered by United Nations, who recognised ColorADD as a worldwide good practice; And from B-Corp, a global certification for companies that are socially responsible. Most importantly, we have the validation of the market and of the colour-blind people.

In the last four years we tested the ColorADD code in more than 300 partnerships and our growth has been totally organic and sustainable with a small but fantastic and engaged team.


What will be your next steps? How do you aim to maximise the impact of your project?

To maximise the impact of our project we developed a double expansion model:

Top Down: finding 5/6 big global players – business to consumer companies - to create the effect “me too” in other companies.

Bottom up:  Create more awareness about the colour-blind problem.

To grant this growth globally and cross sector, to guarantee a better life for all the future generations, we need to invest in our critical areas, namely Technology, Human Resources and Global Marketing.

Our business model can be implemented through a use license acquisition from companies and institutions which use colour to communicate their own products worldwide. The license value is established according to the partner business dimension (turnover).

We want to take this tool everywhere but to reach all the colour-blind people in the world we need to reach 7 billion people, all the world’s population. We need to scale for a more colourful world... and why not, a better world for all.