People with low vision or those who are visually impaired have special requirements before they can be allowed to drive in their respective states. Currently, 39 states grant driver’s licenses to the visually impaired. Aside from the prerequisite testing and licensure process, visually impaired drivers must be equipped with driving aids such as bioptic telescopes. Safety is the priority both for the visually impaired driver and fellow drivers on the road.
A bioptic telescope aids its wearer by magnifying the field of vision from 1.7 times to 8 times the normal view. These miniature telescopes are mounted onto the corrective lenses, slightly above the wearer's usual line of sight. Bioptic telescopes can be focusable (adjustable focus) or non-focusable and can also be used for watching television, walking down the street or viewing a computer monitor. Bioptic telescopes are effective only with certain types of visual impairments.
Testing and Licensure
Before someone with impaired vision can apply for a driver's license, he must first undergo a vision assessment, bioptics fitting and training. Once he secures a driver’s license, which can only be used with a driving rehabilitation specialist, he must undergo a specified number of hours of behind-the-wheel driver’s training before taking the visually-impaired driving test. During this training, drivers are taught how to properly gauge and assess the images seen with the aid of the bioptic telescope.
In California, get in touch with the Special Education Division of the California Department of Education (no website; 515 L St., Room 270, Sacramento; 916-327-0842) and ask about the available therapists for bioptic driving. In Florida, contact the Low Vision Institute (no website; 5333 N. Dixie Hwy, Suite 101, Fort Lauderdale; 954-776-5223). Illinois has the Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center (no website; 26 W. 171 Roosevelt Rd., Wheaton; 630-588-7826). In Kentucky, contact the Bioptic Driving Program (no website; 8412 Westport Rd., Louisville; 502-327-0314).
Bioptic Driving USA (biopticdrivingusa.org) has a list of therapists who can help people learn to drive properly with bioptics. In coordination with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, they orient and train people on proper use of bioptics as well as the regional driving laws applicable by state. Most of these therapists are occupational and rehabilitation specialists who focus on visually impaired clientele. The therapists provide assistance from the vision assessment to the licensure and testing process.
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