Our busy, technical, ever-evolving world can be challenging enough for healthy normally sighted people. Add in visual impairment and it can make work, driving, and even social and leisure activities into difficult tasks. Luckily for us, not only are the visual tasks getting harder and more detailed but the technology to help us with those tasks are also increasing. Bioptic telescopes are one of those amazing devices that make our lives more productive and are advancing in technology. They have gotten smaller, lighter, and even digital.

What are bioptic telescopes?

Bioptics is a name for a pair of vision-enhancement lenses, commonly known as a bioptic in the singular and sometimes more technically termed a bioptic telescope. They are used to improve distance vision for patients with severely damaged eyesight, notably those with albinism, and magnify between two and six times.

They can be a mix of head-mounted eyeglasses (referred to as the “carrier”) and binoculars, or they can be constructed to fit over existing spectacles. Some people use monoculars with small telescopes installed on, in, or behind their regular lenses, allowing them to gaze through either the regular or telescopic lens.

Newer designs incorporate smaller, lighter tiny telescopes that magnify up to six times and can be incorporated inside the spectacle glass to improve aesthetics. The use of small telescopic eyeglasses in the therapy of nystagmus has been demonstrated. In some regions, people with low eyesight who use Bioptics may be allowed to drive cars.

Who are they best suited for?

The great thing about bioptic glasses are they are very versatile. They can be made in different powers and types. Fixed focus and variable focus. So they can help those with mild visual impairment and those with more severe.

They are best suited for people with central vision loss from diseases such as macular degeneration, stargardt disease, diabetic retinopathy, and ocular albinism.

They can actually be used for normally sited people who just want more clarity for things like sporting events or plays.

Bioptic glasses

Are there different kinds of bioptic telescopes?

Galilean telescopes are smaller and lighter weight, and they work well at 1.7x and 2.2x magnifications, but at magnifications of 3x and higher, their fields of view become very limited. Keplerian telescopes, which feature a more intricate optical construction that includes both lenses and prisms, will provide far broader fields of view that consumers prefer when prescribed powers of 3x and above.
The larger and bulkier the telescope is, the more intricate the design is. To keep the weight low and the appearance more appealing, some people prefer to have numerous pairs of more simple designs, such as Galilean, each set for specific distances.

All bioptic telescopes can be used for both long and short-range viewing. Galilean telescopes can be manually focused or fixed focus instruments that focus at close distances using ‘reading caps.’ Both manual and autofocus versions of Keplerian telescopes are available.

What is the main goal of a bioptic wearer?

We’d all love to have perfect vision, but for those with a vision impairment that obviously isn’t a reality. So the goal for each low vision device is to make whatever task at hand achievable.

Bioptic glasses are most commonly used for distance tasks such as driving. In most states, the minimum acuity for driving is 20/40. That is usually our goal is to get them to that acuity. Some may have more detailed tasks that require more magnification but in most cases, 20/40 will suffice.

If we can achieve more without stronger telescopes great, but the stronger the telescope the more narrow the visual field. So we try to give the best of both worlds…enough clarity to accomplish the task and enough visual field to be safe and not feel as if they are in a tunnel. So the simplest answer to this question is the goal is to do whatever you want to do. Maybe you’re an avid bowler and you just want to be able to see the pins and the end of the lane or the score on the screen above you.

Most people want to be able to see the signs in the grocery store isle. Of course, everyone wants to be able to watch TV and at least know what is going on. In today’s world, most of us spend a ton of time on the computer and on our phones. All of these tasks need to be taken into consideration when choosing or prescribing a pair or pairs of bioptic glasses.

Best for distance

Which type is best for distance?

The simplest type is the Galilean fixed focus bioptic. It is the lightest and the smallest. Generally the stronger the telescope the smaller it is in the fixed focus type which is great for weight and esthetics but this also limits the field of view as discussed earlier. This is the type most often used for distance assuming that the visual impairment isn’t too severe. If more than 3x is needed for distance then the Keplerian should be used to provide the wider field of view.

Which is better for near activities?

If the weight isn’t an issue the Keplerian focusable or autofocus bioptic glasses may work the best, however, due to the optical complexity they are much bigger and bulkier. Many will choose to use a Galilean fixed focus with different reading caps for different distances. If they are to be used for long periods of time at near it is best to have a pair specifically designed for near work.

The reason being is we naturally hold things down and in to read and the distance bioptic glasses have the telescope mounted high with requires typing the head down to see through them. This is the opposite of what we normally do to read. This will work for quickly spotting things but not for hours of use. However, a pair can be made where the telescope is mounted in a lower position for doing near tasks and different reading caps can be used for different distances.

How are Bioptic glasses use for driving?

Bioptic driving is a type of driving that combines the patient’s general vision with occasional sighting through a small telescopic system to increase the patient’s distant vision sharpness. About 95% of the time, bioptic drivers drive with their own vision carrier. When using the bioptic telescope, the patient quickly looks through it to provide details such as street signs, traffic lights, and distant objects.

The brief use of the bioptic telescope is similar to the fast glance back in the rearview mirror that all drivers use. Bioptic driving requires precise equipment fitting as well as extensive training in both bioptic usage and behind-the-wheel driver instruction.

Low Vision Specialist

A multidisciplinary approach is required to determine whether a visually impaired person can become a bioptic driver. Low vision specialists, doctors, driving rehabilitators, occupational therapists, and orientation and mobility teachers are all possible candidates. The procedure comprises a variety of checks and balances to weed out people who aren’t likely to be safe bioptic drivers while identifying those who are.

The problem that visually impaired drivers face is that they must approach a sign or signal so closely to notice that they do not have enough time to make the necessary driving modifications. They can see the target sooner thanks to the bioptic telescope, giving the driver more time to respond.

Bioptics drivers see through their regular eyeglass lenses most of the time, only looking through the telescope for short periods of time, similar to how they use their car’s back and side-view mirrors.

According to this study, the bioptic telescope is useful as assistive equipment in a variety of driving duties for the vast majority of bioptic drivers.

The bioptic telescope was assessed as extremely helpful by the majority (74 percent), and almost all (90 percent) said they would continue to use it for driving even if it was not required for licensure. – Moharrer,M. et al, Evaluation of the Driving Safety of Visually Impaired Bioptic Drivers Based on Critical Events in Naturalistic Driving, tvst.arvojournals.org, 2020

Other good resources for bioptic glasses and bioptic driving information.

Ocutech, which was founded in 1984, is the world leader in designing cutting-edge bioptic telescopes for the visually impaired. They’ve established the gold standard in high-quality bioptic telescope glasses, having been shown effective in NIH-funded studies and being available in over 40 countries.

Low Vision Specialists prescribe Ocutech bioptics. They’ll show you Ocutech bioptics and help you choose the right power and design for you. You don’t have access to a low vision specialist? To discover a low vision specialist near you, fill out the form on our website.

Telescopic bioptics from Ocutech make objects bigger and simpler to view. They can assist you with nearly any task. Individuals with limited vision may be able to drive using their Ocutech bioptic telescope in over 45 states in the United States and in certain countries. Tunnel Vision sufferers may benefit from Ocutech’s Field Expanders.

The BiopticDrivingUSA.com website is for those who believe bioptic driving could provide them with more independence, as well as those who work in the bioptic driving sector. Our purpose is to provide practical information regarding bioptic driving from a group of professionals who have been fitting and training bioptic drivers on a regular basis. The Low Vision Centers of Indiana, a division of the Eye Associates Group, LLC, a nationally award-winning low vision rehabilitation clinic, is funding the site. In 1894, The Eye Associates Group, LLC was established.

How expensive are bioptic glasses?

Bioptic glasses aren’t cheap, the good news is they are usually less than hear aids. Bioptic telescopes can cost between $1500 and $3000, depending on the model. State rehabilitation programs sometimes pay for them, but insurance companies seldom do. The price will vary on the prescription that is put into them, the filters used, and the style of the telescope system. The more complicated the system the more expensive they will be.

Can I order Bioptic glasses online?

Bioptic glasses are very complicated optical systems and need to be prescribed by a low vision specialist. Low vision specialists are optometrists who specialize in low vision care for the visually impaired.

Can Bioptic glasses be insured and do they come with a warranty?

Most homeowner’s insurance policies, like those for cameras and jewels, will allow you to add your bioptic glasses as a rider.

Most Bioptic glasses come with a manufacturer’s defect guarantee, which varies by manufacturer. After they have been fitted, low vision doctors will usually provide a warranty for a length of time. Each will vary.

Can I use my own frame to have the bioptic glasses made?

In many cases, you can either choose a new frame or use one that you already have however due to the weight and the size of the telescope systems mounted in them. They need to be sturdy and not worn out. The will need to be a certain size to allow room for the telescope and the normal viewing area simultaneously. You will need to discuss this with your low vision specialist.

Bioptic glasses can enhance you the life of visually impaired people and keep them active and independent. If you suffer from vision loss and think you might benefit from bioptic glasses reach out to tush’s and we can help put you in touch with a low vision clinic near you!