Reexamination of Color Vision Standards, Part I: Status of Color Use in ATC Displays and Demography of Color-Deficit Controllers: Final Report
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Reexamination of Color Vision Standards, Part I: Status of Color Use in ATC Displays and Demography of Color-Deficit Controllers: Final Report

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  • Alternative Title:
    Reexamination of color vision standards, part I : status of color use in ATC displays and demography of color-deficit controllers.
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  • Abstract:
    This report describes the status of color use in current air traffic control (ATC) displays. It represents the first step in our effort to reexamine the color vision standards for air traffic controllers. The current job-related color vision tests used by the FAA are based on an analysis of ATC tasks conducted in the 1980s. Over the past decade, many color displays have been introduced while the job-related screening tests for applicants are based on the earlier data. Thus, it is necessary to reexamine the current color vision standards. We first performed a demographic study to identify the number of controllers in the current ATC workforce with color vision deficiencies. The results indicated that there are 152 color-deficient controllers in eight of the nine FAA regions across the country. To understand how colors are being used in ATC displays and how they may affect the job performance of color-deficient controllers, we collected and analyzed information about color displays from nine ATC facilities, including three air traffic control towers, three TRACONs, and three en route centers. The main findings are summarized as follows: 1) All the basic colors and some non-basic colors are being used in ATC displays; 2) Critical information typically involves the use of red or yellow colors; 3) Colors are used mainly for three purposes: drawing attention, identifying information, and organizing information. Yet, none of the colors is used exclusively for a single purpose across facilities. The results raise questions regarding the adequacy of the current job-related color vision tests, given today’s task requirements. We also discuss several possible solutions to bridge the discrepancies between the current color vision standards and the extensive use of color displays.
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