The Air Force has strict vision requirements, including limits on color vision deficiency, also known as color blindness. But in some cases, it is possible to get a color vision waiver and still serve in the Air Force with colorblindness.
Can you join the Air Force if you are colorblind?
The Air Force has strict requirements regarding color vision for most roles. Their baseline color vision standard is:”
|Color Vision Standard||Requirement|
|Normal Color Vision||Must correctly identify at least 16 of 16 Ishihara plates|
|Mild Color Vision Deficiency||Must correctly identify at least 13 of 14 Ishihara plates|
So in most cases, being colorblind would disqualify you from joining the Air Force. However, waivers are possible for certain jobs and situations. Here are some key points about color vision and the Air Force:
- Color vision requirements depend on the job you want. Pilots, air traffic controllers, and many other operational jobs require normal color vision. But some ground support roles have less strict standards.
- There are medical waivers available in some cases, even for operational jobs. But these are decided case-by-case.
- The Air Force uses pseudoisochromatic plates (like the Ishihara test) to test color vision. You must pass their color vision test to your role’s standards.
- Color vision generally doesn’t improve over time. If you’re colorblind, you need to qualify for a waiver.
So in summary, mild color vision deficiency or colorblindness may disqualify you from some or all Air Force roles. But waivers are possible for certain jobs, so speak to a recruiter if you are colorblind and interested in the Air Force.
What Air Force jobs are available to colorblind applicants?
Here are some of the main Air Force jobs potentially available to colorblind applicants with a waiver:
|Air Force Job||Color Vision Requirement|
|Air Traffic Controller||Normal Color Vision|
|Pilot||Normal Color Vision|
|Combat Controller||Normal Color Vision|
|Tactical Air Control Party||Normal Color Vision|
|Cyber Systems Operations||Mild Deficiency Allowed|
|Logistics||Mild Deficiency Allowed|
|Maintenance||Mild Deficiency Allowed|
|Security Forces||Mild Deficiency Allowed|
As you can see, operational flying jobs and most air traffic control roles require normal color vision. Mild deficiencies like red-green color blindness may be allowed for some ground support roles with a medical waiver.
Some other jobs that may be available with color vision waivers include:
- Aircrew flight equipment
- Aerospace medical service
- Civil engineering
- Public affairs
- Some intelligence roles
However, keep in mind that waivers are never guaranteed, and your particular type and severity of colorblindness will impact your eligibility. Work with a recruiter to understand your options.
What types of colorblindness may qualify for a waiver?
The most common types of color vision deficiencies are:
- Red-green color blindness – having difficulty distinguishing between red and green.
- Blue-yellow color blindness – having difficulty distinguishing between blue and yellow.
- Complete color blindness – seeing no color at all, very rare.
Of these, the mildest forms may qualify for an Air Force waiver. Here are some specifics:
|Mild red-green deficiency||Possible with limitations|
|Moderate red-green deficiency||Unlikely|
|Severe red-green deficiency||Very unlikely|
|Blue-yellow deficiency||Possible in mild cases|
|Complete color blindness||Extremely unlikely|
As you can see, mild forms of red-green color blindness have the best odds of qualifying for a waiver. More severe deficiencies are increasingly unlikely to be waived, especially for operational jobs.
What is the process for requesting a color vision waiver?
Here are the key steps to request a color vision waiver for the Air Force:
- Take a color vision test at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). The Air Force uses pseudoisochromatic plates.
- Fail to meet the color vision standard for your desired role.
- Work with your recruiter to submit a waiver request to the Surgeon General’s office.
- Provide supporting medical documentation of your particular color vision deficiency.
- The waiver authority reviews your case and makes a determination.
- If approved, you can proceed with your application and Air Force career.
A few key tips for the waiver process:
- Get a detailed color vision exam done by an ophthalmologist. This provides needed documentation.
- Be flexible on jobs. Waivers are more likely for support roles than operational flying positions.
- Highlight strengths in other vision areas like 20/20 acuity.
- Stress your motivation and ability to adapt if colorblind.
It is challenging but possible to join the Air Force with mild colorblindness. Seek a waiver for the best chance of success.
Are color vision waivers worth pursuing?
Pursuing a color vision waiver for the Air Force has both pros and cons to weigh:
For many, the chance to join the Air Force makes pursuing a waiver very worthwhile. But it does involve effort, uncertainty and possible job limitations if approved.
Weigh your career goals carefully. The waiver process can open doors but doesn’t guarantee all opportunities. Speak to your recruiter about the pros/cons for your specific hopes and situation.
The Air Force has strict color vision standards for pilots, air traffic controllers, and many other operational roles. But waivers are possible in some cases, especially for applicants with mild red-green color deficiencies interested in ground support jobs.
The waiver process involves vision testing, significant paperwork, and uncertainty. But for some colorblind applicants, it can provide a pathway to serving in the Air Force. Understanding the standards, job options, and waiver possibilities allows aspiring Airmen to make an informed plan.
With flexibility and persistence, an Air Force career may still be achievable for colorblind applicants. Work closely with your recruiter and be open-minded to the opportunities available. The Air Force can still be a fulfilling calling, even for those who see the world differently.