Jonathan Jones has known he was colorblind since the age of 9.
He’s now a seventh-grader at Lakeville High School in Cottonwood, Minnesota, and he sees the world in a sort of muted spectrum. Blues, browns, oranges, and reds elude him.
As luck would have it, his principal, Scott Hanson, is also colorblind, but he has something Jonathan didn’t: a special pair of EnChroma glasses, which help him see the full spectrum of color. Last week, while his class was doing a lesson on genetics and colorblindness, they decided on a lark to let Jonathan try on Hanson’s pair and see what he thought.
The video his brother, Ben, took of the experiment has warmed the internet’s cold collective heart.
“What are you thinking?” Hanson asked.
Jones paused, nodding, his face going a little pink. He gave Hanson a thumbs up. Then he burst into tears.
My little brother is severely colorblind and so is his principle at school. While they were learning about colorblindness in class, his principle brought in some glasses that let him see color for the first time, and he was very emotional. Check it out: pic.twitter.com/LQhAND9RJq— Ben Jones (@BenJones_5) November 21, 2019
The video instantly went viral. It’s been liked nearly 135,000 times. Even Mark Hamill was touched.
The Jones family started a GoFundMe page to buy Jonathan and other colorblind people their own pairs, which sell for around $350 a pop. As of Monday, Jonathan’s account had raised over $26,000
There’s an interesting note here: Jonathan told KARE 11 he hadn’t expected the glasses to change his vision all that much. After all, if you’ve never seen color before, it’s impossible to know what you’re missing.
That posed a real problem to the inventor of these color-blind specs, Don McPherson. He created this contraption by accident in the ’90s after letting a friend try on his other invention: protective eyewear for laser surgeons. After donning them, the friend started freaking out and pointing at the fluorescent cones surrounding a nearby Frisbee field. It turned out McPherson’s friend was colorblind, and was seeing orange for the first time.
McPherson realized he had something bigger on his hands. For years he refined the glasses, which he called EnChroma, but nobody was interested in buying them. Potential customers were skeptical the glasses worked at all, and weren’t sure they wanted to pay so much to see something they’d never seen—or particularly needed to see—their entire lives.
As NPR’s Planet Money podcast put it, it’s hard to put a price tag on purple.
So McPherson’s employees devised an ingenious marketing campaign. They included a few brightly colored, deflated balloons in each EnChroma box. When people gave the glasses to a colorblind loved one, they’d blow up the balloons and take video.
There’s something emotionally compelling about watching a person experience color for the first time. Clips like Jonathan’s were just what EnChroma needed. With a quick Google search, you can watch a bespectacled Indiana teen tear up while looking at autumn leaves with his mother, and a Clemson boy break down when he finally sees his team colors at a tailgate.
“This is so fantastic!” a commenter on Ben’s video said. “I too am color blind and have wondered if these glasses help. Your brother’s reaction makes me think I should look into them further!”
Others were a little blunter.
“What kinda fuckin glasses are those?” another commenter said. “I lost my ability to see color at 14 and I’d skin my left hand for a pair.”
If you’re interested in contributing to the Joneses’ glasses fund, you can find their GoFundMe page here. The money is going toward the EnChroma foundation, which will match the donated glasses pair for pair.