The Road Begins Here – Part I

Part I – The Applications and Testing

Before you even so much as step foot into the offices of your Department of Motor Vehicles (or whatever your state may refer to it as), you’re going to want to determine whether or not you’re eligible for the bioptic driving or low vision driving program for your state. In these articles, I’ll be referring to laws and documents for the state of New York.

Before setting up your appointment, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the limitations of your eyes. Don’t just know the numbers behind your visual acuity. Know the condition that causes it, and familiarize yourself with it. After all, knowledge is power! (Thank you, School House Rock!)

Keep in mind…

For quicker access to the documents and paperwork that you’ll need in this post, refer to the resources page. Any links to pertinent resources on any of these posts can be found there.

Eye Examinations

For my eye examination, I went to the University Eye Center at the SUNY College of Optometry. They’re located right on 42nd Street, across the street from the central branch of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park. While I’m pretty sure that UEC does accept most insurances, I recommend calling ahead and asking questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions! That’s the only way to be sure that you’re being pointed in the right direction.

One other thing that I recommend doing is to make arrangements with someone you trust to go to the appointment with you, such as a parent or significant other. If you think that pupil dilation alone is a problem, try navigating the streets and subways of New York City while you’re dilated. That person will be able to help make sure you’re okay in the event that a doctor needs to take a closer look into your eyes. It also helps to have one other person present to absorb and process information.

What You’ll Feel

The day of the appointment, I felt nervous. After all, this was – for me, and I’m sure for you – something that could either open me up to a freedom that I never thought I could attain, or could relegate me to public transportation for the rest of my life. Nystagmus is a funny thing though. These involuntary muscle movements can be intensified by emotional stimuli. As that happens, your ability to focus on certain things may diminish, making things that you’d normally see completely illegible. This very thing happened to me, and it might happen to you. When the doctor said that I was unable to pass the test because my acuity was too low, I was heartbroken. Little did I know, the condition was only temporary, and I was able to retest another day.

Knowing what I do now, I do my best to keep calm, and I ground myself with the knowledge that I have passed this test once before. I ask questions. I also have someone with me to help me process what has transpired, or what is about to happen.

What will be tested?

In addition to your usual eye examination and test of acuity, your horizontal field of vision will be tested. In New York, horizontal field of vision plays a key role in bioptic driving regulations. Here’s what Bioptic Driving USA says for the state of New York. Feel free to roam around their site and find the criteria for your state.

At the end of the test, and after finding out my results, I was overwhelmed with joy. That same feeling that i had about traveling the trains on my own was multiplied by 1,000! I hope that you get to feel this same high.

In my experience, during the examinations, the assistants, nurses, and my doctor at SUNY College of Optometry were very reassuring and very calming. I felt that they know the gravity of what was happening, and helped me through the entire process from beginning to end.


Along with the actual application for your learner’s permit, the results for your eye exam will need to be submitted to your DMV. In the state of New York, healthcare providers who are in the DMV registry can submit these results electronically. If you test at a healthcare provider that isn’t in the registry, your ophthalmologist will need to fill out some paperwork

To view the actual applications in PDF, along with a list of other requirements for your eye exam, click here. This will also be readily available on the resources page.

This should go without saying but, make sure you bring all of that paperwork with you.

Getting A Bioptic

In most cases, your ophthalmologist will be able to tell you where you would be able to find a bioptic telescope. In certain states, your local vocational rehab program should be able to help you. These devices are covered by most insurance plans. In my case, I got an entirely different set of glasses with the bioptic lens installed on them. Your set up might be different.

Once you’ve gotten your lens, have gotten used to it, and have applied for your permit, you’re now ready to get behind the wheel and learn! This is where YOU begin your journey.

Stay tuned and follow from a safe distance. It’ll be worth the trip.

What’s ahead?

  • Learning to use my Bioptic
  • Learning with a Certified Driving Rehab Specialist
  • My experience of learning how to drive
  • The biggest lesson while learning to drive.