Is Low Vision Driving an Option?

What Are Bioptics?

Bioptics are specially designed eyeglasses

The glasses contain carrier lenses in one’s regular distance prescription, which have been modified to “carry” a miniature telescope. Not everyone with low vision can use them. The telescope enables users to see objects in the distance by tilting their heads slightly downward to switch from the view through their regular eyeglass lenses to a magnified view through the telescope. The telescope is used for less than five percent of driving time and only for a few seconds at a time.

If your teen’s visual acuity

Is between 20/50 and 20/200 and has near-normal visual fields, they may be able to learn to drive using bioptics. This is also to refer to as a bioptic telescopic system (BTS). The first step is to consult an ophthalmologist or optometrist who is a specialist in low vision. If your child’s vision is sufficient for low-vision driving, instruction, and practice to learn how to become a safe driver will be needed using this device.

Prepare for Low-Vision Driving

  • Have your child contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to learn about the requirements in your state for low-vision driving.
  • Encourage use more often if your teen uses a handheld telescope or monocular. For example—to read signs at a distance or watch out for oncoming traffic. The more skilled and familiar your child is with a handheld telescope, it will be easier to learn the bioptic telescopic system.
  • Talk with your child’s O&M instructor for ideas to help your child become a more aware traveler. The O&M instructor may be able to suggest ways to sharpen concepts related to travel. This may include blocks, cross streets, traffic flow, types of intersections, and highway driving versus local travel.
  • When you or another adult are driving, have your child sit behind the driver and describe what they are seeing. Help them become more aware of how a driver needs to shift perspective to know at every moment what’s happening. Especially, include what is happening in front of the car, far ahead, on either side, and behind.
  • Encourage your teenager to talk with other low-vision drivers about how they learned to use bioptics. In addition, you may be able to locate a low-vision driver by contacting a local service provider for individuals who are blind or have low vision.

Eager to Overcome

Many young people are eager to overcome the limitations of low vision and become licensed drivers. It takes dedication to develop the skills needed to accomplish that. Work with other members of your child’s educational team to help explore and prepare for driving. Your child may decide the demands of low-vision driving are too hard, they will still benefit from the experiences. The skills and concepts learned while practicing are likely to make them a more knowledgeable and confident traveler.

You can read more about transportation options by browsing VisionAware’s section on transportation.