Both coloured overlays and coloured lenses can improve reading fluency, but their optimal chromaticities differ

Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 1999 Jul;19(4):279-85. doi: 10.1046/j.1475-1313.1999.00442.x.


Some individuals read more fluently when the text is coloured: i.e., when coloured sheets of plastic (overlays) are placed upon the page, or when coloured lenses are worn. Overlays provide a surface colour whereas lenses mimic a change in the colour of a light source. The neural mechanisms that underlie colour constancy ensure that the chromaticity of overlays and lenses is processed differently by the visual system. We investigated (1) the relationship between the optimal colours of overlays and lenses, and (2) how reading rate is affected by a particular colour in overlays and lenses. In 100 patients we noted (1) the overlay(s) chosen from among the 29 combinations of the 10 IOO Intuitive Overlays which sample chromaticity systematically and (2) the chromaticity co-ordinates of the lenses subsequently chosen using the intuitive Colorimeter, a device providing a light source that can be adjusted in hue, saturation and luminance independently. The relationship between the chromaticities of the overlays and the lenses showed considerable variation. In a second study, patients attending the Specific Learning Difficulties clinic at the Institute of Optometry, London, were given overlays to use for two months. Seventeen who derived benefit were examined using the Intuitive Colorimeter. Patients were asked to read aloud randomly ordered common words (Wilkins Rate of Reading Test): (1) with no colour, (2) with the chosen overlay, (3) with lenses matching the chosen overlay and (4) with lenses matching the Colorimeter setting. The aids increased reading rate significantly only in conditions (2) and (4). There was no significant improvement when lenses matching the overlay colour were used, and under this condition the reading rate was significantly poorer than in conditions (2) and (4). The colour of a lens will improve reading only if it is selected under conditions that mimic a change in the colour of a light source: coloured overlays give no clinically reliable guide to optimal lens colour.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Color Perception
  • Color*
  • Dyslexia / rehabilitation*
  • Eyeglasses*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Optometry
  • Reading*
  • Time Factors