Blind World

Low Vision Driving Glasses.

February, 2004.
The Champlain Channel.

BACKGROUND: About 14 million Americans have low vision. Low vision is a significant reduction of visual function that cannot be fully corrected by ordinary glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment and/or surgery. Low vision affects people of all ages. It affects daily activities like reading, cooking, taking medication and watching television. People with severe low vision may be classified as partially sighted and/or legally blind.

Low vision can include a loss of central vision from macular degeneration or optic atrophy, scattered dark patches caused by diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or retinal detachment, tunnel vision that may be caused by glaucoma or stroke, or contrast loss as may be caused by cataracts or corneal disease. Other conditions causing low vision may have the person seeing blurred or distorted objects. People with low vision often are unable to drive.

TELESCOPIC GLASSES: Commercially-available telescopic glasses can help some people with low vision drive legally. The glasses are intended for people who have enough vision that they can maintain the car on the road, maintain the distance of the car ahead of them, spot a pedestrian on the roadway, see other cars, and do any necessary maneuvers but who are unable to see images where sharp vision is needed. This can include reading road signs or detecting the color on a traffic light. For these individuals, the telescopic glasses may help. Most of the driving is done using the regular lens, but when they have to read a sign or see a light, they tip their head and look through the bioptic lens mounted on one side. This is only about 5 percent of the time they are driving. The glasses are permitted to use while driving in 34 states.

THE NEXT STEP: The bioptic lenses that are currently available have a bulky lens protruding from one side of the glasses. The telescopic glasses cost between $1,000 and $2,000. Because of their appearance, people may be hesitant to use them. For this reason, Dr. Eli Peli of the Schepens Eye Institute in Boston is working on developing a lens that has the telescope embedded in the lens.

Peli also said the traditional telescopic lenses have a major problem. When the person looks through the lens, part of their view of the road become blocked. A new lens Peli is developing moves the view of the magnified telescope towards the sky where it does not block the road view and the person is able to continue monitoring the road. Peli said it may take as long as five years before the lens has been developed and manufactured for the market.


Rich Godfrey,
Volunteer Patient Liason,
Schepens Eye Research Institute,
20 Staniford Street,
Boston, MA 02114.
(617) 912-2569.

End of article.

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