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Driving and alternative transport

The advice provided here is based on UK driving regulations. Please consult your local driving regulator, ophthalmologists or optometrists if you are outside of the UK.

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Overview

Having an inherited eye disorder does not mean you are no longer able to drive. Some patients might still have good enough vision to meet the minimum driving standards set by the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You will need to notify the DVLA about your eye condition so that they can determine if a license can be issued. After notification, the DVLA might contact your consultant, arrange an eye test or ask you to take a driving test to assess your suitability.

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Minimum driving standards

The minimum requirements for driving a personal vehicle (car and motorcycle) are:

  • In good daylight aided by glasses or contact lenses, you must be able to read a number plate made after 1 September 2001 (numbers and letters measuring 79mm high by 50mm wide) from 20 metres AND
  • Your visual acuity must be at least 6/12 level on a Snellen chart (fifth line down from the chart) with both eyes open OR in the only good eye if the other eye has complete loss of vision (unable to detect light) AND
Snellen chart: the 6/12 level (fifth line down) is marked in a blue box
  • At least 120° of unobstructed horizontal field of vision and 40° of unobstructed vertical field of vision (20° above and below centre of fixation)
This is an example of a field of vision test result. A blue circle outlines the minimum unobstructed field of vision required to drive a personal vehicle such as cars and motorcycles.
An example of a field of vision test performed to determine driving eligibility: The blue circle represents the minimum unobstructed field of vision required by DVLA for driving a personal vehicle

The minimum requirements for driving commercial vehicles (bus and lorry) are slightly different.

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Alternate ways of transportation

Sometimes due to the progressive nature of some inherited eye disorders, you might not meet the minimum driving standards anymore and therefore not able to retain your license. This might feel daunting initially as you feel like you have lost your independence. However, there are many other ways that you can travel around such as:

  • Public transportation
  • Sharing a ride with family, friends or colleagues
  • Using a disability-friendly local taxi service or ride-hailing apps like Uber
  • Utilising the hospital’s Patient Transport Service if you need to attend a hospital appointment

Travel concessions

If you are not driving due to your visual disability, you might be eligible to travel on public transportations at reduced prices or even free of charge. It is always worthwhile to register as sight impaired or severely sight impaired with your local authority to gain access to these concessions. However, even if you have not registered or not eligible yet, it is still worth checking with your local authority as you might still qualify for some of these concessions.

Examples of travel concessions include:

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Blue Badge parking scheme

If you are registered as blind (severely sight impaired), you are eligible to apply for a Blue Badge. It enables your driver to park in spaces reserved for people with disability. These are often located close to a building entrance to allow easy access. The Blue Badge can be used in any vehicle that you are travelling on. More information about the scheme can be found through your local authority.

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