Can I still drive?
It can feel like a huge loss when you are faced with the possibility of not driving any more. Ask your consultant at the eye clinic to give you a clear explanation of how you stand in this regard.
The DVLA’s INF188/1 leaflet (September 2014) defines the required standards of vision for driving cars and motorcycles. They state that ‘The legal eyesight standard means that you must be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres. Also, you must have not been told by a doctor or optician that your eyesight is currently worse than 6/12 (decimal 0.5) on the Snellen scale. If you are in any doubt, you should discuss with your optician or doctor. If required, you may wear glasses or corrective lenses to meet both of these standards.
‘If you do not meet this standard you cannot drive on a public road. If you do drive on a public road, you are guilty of an offence.
‘Your field of vision is the area you can see when looking straight ahead. You must have an adequate field of vision to drive safely. To meet the standard for your field of vision, you must be able to see within a specific area without there being significant problems in the field of vision. If you have total loss of sight in one eye, you must not have any problem with the field of vision in your other eye. If you have any doubt about whether you can meet the relevant standard, get advice from your GP, optician or eye specialist.
‘In the interests of road safety, at all times you must be sure that you can safely control a motor vehicle. If your eyesight gets worse and you cannot read a number plate at the relevant distance, or you lose any of your field of vision, you must tell us.’
Getting out and about?
There are a range of transport and independent mobility options that are available to you.
Social Services employ specially trained Early Intervention and/or rehabilitation workers who can provide advice and support in getting out. They will offer advice and instruction to enable you to maintain your independence including training to use a cane or own a guide dog.
As well as training you to keep and to use a guide dog, Guide Dogs offers a volunteer-led service, My Guide, where they match you with a trained volunteer (or you can arrange for a family member or friend to be trained) to support you to get out and be mobile.
While technology promises much for navigation systems, much of the technology coming through is still very much a work in progress. The Trekker Breeze system is well thought of and seems to be preferred to other GPS-based systems for iPhone and Android handsets. This is due to its ease of use. The system comprises a handset with voice output telling the user their current location while also giving directions to a chosen location. Maps can be added covering a large number of countries. However, the price of the unit is in the region of £365.00. Nevertheless, if you plan to be out a lot, this may well be the best solution currently available.
In contrast to this, the RNIB’s Navigator, which runs as an app on iPhones and iPads, can be downloaded from iTunes for a monthly subscription. As with all GPS solutions, the location accuracy is not sufficiently accurate but it does get you within close proximity to your location. Accessibility and VoiceOver prompts are good.
Public transport and travel
People who are blind or partially sighted are entitled to a Freedom Pass allowing free travel on the Tube, bus, London Overground, DLR, TfL Rail services and National Rail Services operating within the London region (from 9.30 weekdays). If you are unable to travel without assistance using public transport, you may be eligible for a Taxicard. Details on eligibility and application details for Freedom Pass and Taxicards can be found on the London Councils website.
Where black taxis are not so prominent Capital Call provides subsidised door-to-door transport for those with disabilities using minicabs and private hire vehicles. Capital Call operates in and is supported by the London boroughs of Bexley, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton and Southwark. Capital Call is only available to registered Taxicard users and the criteria are the same for both schemes.
TrainTaxi provides contact details for taxi services associated with train and tube stations allowing you to book in advance and arrange to be met and escorted and taken to your destination.
Dial-a-ride offers a door-to-door service but please note there are limitations on the use of this (for example, excluding hospital and GP appointments).
Information on accessible locations can be found on the DirectEnquiries website. This information includes information on accessible toilets and RADAR National Key Scheme Toilets. RADAR keys can be purchased here.