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New driver license program expands option for visually impaired


Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that visually-impaired Pennsylvania residents can now use bioptic telescope lenses to obtain a learner’s permit and ultimately earn a driver’s license.

“This law makes significant changes that will ultimately increase many of our residents’ independence and enhance their quality of life,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian.

Act 131, which was signed into law by Governor Wolf in December, took effect September 27 and directed the establishment of a safe program for eligible individuals to use bioptic telescope lenses that can help them meet visual acuity standards to qualify for and obtain a driver’s license. These bioptic telescope lenses, with authorized use in at least 46 other states, are designed to help certain individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain a license meet visual acuity standards. PennDOT has developed the program’s training and licensing process and has now implemented the program.

The law amends Title 75 – the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code – by allowing drivers with a visual acuity less than 20/100 combined but at least 20/200 visual acuity in the best corrected eye, to be eligible to apply for a Bioptic Telescope Learner’s Permit.

In order to be eligible, the individual must:

  • Pass a complete vision examination completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist;
  • Have possessed a Bioptic Telescope Lens for at least 3 months;
  • Undergo a minimum of 10 hours of front seat passenger-in-car instruction with a Low-Vision Rehabilitation Professional; and
  • Provide the Department a letter of enrollment with a PennDOT approved Certified Driving Instructor (CDI) or Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS).

Once all requirements have been met, the applicant may apply for a Bioptic Telescope Learner’s Permit. Upon successful completion of PennDOT’s knowledge test, the applicant must complete a minimum of 20 hours behind-the-wheel driver training using the Bioptic Telescope with a PennDOT approved (CDI) or (CDRS), plus 45 hours of observed driving hours with a licensed person who is age 21 or older in order to complete the 65 hours of accompanied driving required and reassessed by a PennDOT approved CDI or CDRS before taking the skills exam.

Bioptic telescope drivers may only drive during daylight hours, are limited to roads other than freeways and may only drive passenger vehicles weighing no more than 10,000 pounds.

For more information on Driver and Vehicle Services, please visit the website, www.dmv.pa.gov.

Driver and vehicle online services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include driver’s license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; driver license and photo ID duplicates; and driver exam scheduling. There are no additional fees for using online services.

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