Japan is applying its progressive design ethos to heatmaps that can be visible to those with colorblindness.
After more than 22,000 people were taken to hospitals due to a massive heat wave in Japan last week, the government declared a national emergency. The soaring temperatures have become so bad that so far 65 people have died so far.
The record high figures have forced officials to rethink how they prepare the population against the ongoing blistering heat. As well as a smartphone app and various English languages resources, the country’s ministry of health is in the middle of rolling out a new resign of the heat stroke index, designed especially for people who suffer from color blindness.
The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is a daily updated color-coded index that lets citizens know when they’re at risk of heat stroke. Red indicates danger zones wheres blue and green mark safe spots. But the incremental use of shades and hues to try and warn of exercising outdoors is counterproductive if people can’t decipher it. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the highest danger warning being red, and the second and the fourth, orange and green, all “look the same.”Despite the current need, the new designs won’t be ready until 2019.
It’s reported that around 3 million people Japanese suffer from the condition, and in recent years the country has taken several steps towards making the lives after for those who struggle to tell some colors apart. In 2012 they began trialing new traffic lights that emit a stronger blue LED light to help those who have trouble detecting some colors, and since 2006 both hospitals and subways systems alike have been slowly transitioning to universal signage and designs, created for everyone to comprehend.
The progressive nature of Japan visual design comes off the country’s recognition that in the early twentieth century, people who have a hard time distinguishing tones faced an array of prejudices and unfair treatment. “Marriages were annulled, job applications were rejected,” says Kaoru Nakamura, an ophthalmologist at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, “and people were turned away from almost every college science course in the country.”