Australia’s first ever bioptic driving demonstration day was held last week at Wakefield Park, near Goulburn, providing hope to the estimated 4000 Canberrans and 228,000 people nationwide that could use the technology to drive for the first time, or continue to hold a driver’s licence.
Bioptic driving is the use of assistive technology to allow people with central vision loss conditions to have sharper reactions to the obstacles in front of them.
“It essentially brings what they’re seeing ahead closer to them,” said Belinda O’Connor, one of four directors at Bioptic Drivers Australia.
“It’s like a periscope or a telescope that allows people who have central vision loss conditions to react quicker to the dynamic driving task.
“It won’t assist people who have field loss, such as tunnel vision, but it’s for people with eyesight conditions related to central vision.”
So why was Goulburn chosen as the location for the first bioptic driving demonstration?
“We wanted to make sure it was in a regional area,” said Ms O’Connor. “With bioptic driving, we feel as though more people in regional and remote areas who don’t have access to public transport will benefit more in terms of having road access through bioptics.
“Regional areas are where our focus is at the moment.”
Ms O’Connor said the lack of bioptic drivers currently in Australia is representative of a greater cultural issue in this country.
“As to do with anything when it comes to disability, we’re a little bit behind in this country,” she said. “We have a very strong medical model where disabled people have traditionally been labelled as their disability and put in boxes.
“Over time, people have developed restrictions and boundaries around themselves about who they are as people and what they’re capable of.”
When it comes to Bioptic Drivers Australia, its mission is to bring Australia up to the international standard.
Bioptics have been in Australia since the 1980s and legalised under Australian law since 2012. However, while its usage is growing, it still lags behind the rest of the world.
“What we want is a formalised framework in Australia to what is seen internationally so that eye health professionals have an understanding of what kind of assessments they can use to assess a bioptic driving candidate and the parameters of those assessments,” said Ms O’Connor.
Moving forward from the inaugural demonstration day, Bioptic Drivers Australia will co-present a bioptic driving education session for occupational therapists and driving instructors at the ATSA Independent Living Expo being held at Exhibition Park in Canberra on Wednesday, 24 November, and Thursday, 25 November.