Bringing Things Closer

Sometimes things we do bring unexpected and great results. A member of my Facebook group said that her mother who has AMD was using binoculars, and when she turned them to look at someone with them, she could see the details of their face when she’d not been able to without them. That led us down a path of problem-solving that began with “it’s not practical to carry binoculars and swing them up when someone approaches.” We had other members try it, and it helped some but not all. Part of the problem involved where one’s blurry or blind spots are if they have any.

There are other times, too, when we need to see something that is far from us rather than near to us. We need to bring the world closer so we can better see it.

Binoculars and monoculars

What’s half a binocular? A monocular! There are binoculars and monoculars that are lightweight and small. Some people carry them in their purse, pocket, or around their neck. It is still not exactly practical to see the faces of those approaching but could be used when a person is near. Some people use binoculars or a monocular in stores to read the signs above aisles. Have you come out of a building to look for the person who is picking you up and are unable to find them? Binoculars or a monocular may help.

Telescopic glasses

There are glasses that have the equivalent of a pair of binoculars or a monocular mounted on them. When used this way, the special lenses that magnify are called telescopes so the glasses with them are called telescopic glasses. Some of these glasses have the miniature telescopes over one eye like a monocular, others cover both eyes like binoculars.

With both eyes covered, you don’t want to try walking and certainly cannot drive with them. Telescopes can also be mounted at the bottom of eyeglasses for those who need help seeing near.


Bioptics (sometimes called a bioptic) are telescopic glasses that are mounted on both eyes and either cover the eyes or are mounted at the top of each lens. In the case of those mounted at the top, a person can look through the telescopes by moving their head slightly up or down when they need magnification. Bioptics mounted at the top of the glasses can be used for driving in some states. More about that below.

You can buy telescopic eyeglasses at some stores and online. Some are advertised as ‘TV glasses.’ None of them can be used while driving but can be helpful for seeing things such as movies and sports games or matches. If you buy a pair, make sure you can return them for free. Too many times we buy something that doesn’t work for us, but it would cost a lot to return them so we lose more money.

Low vision specialist

A low vision specialist can create telescopic eyeglasses that are fitted especially to you and your needs. They can use prescription glasses and mount one or two telescopes in the exact position that you need them.  They can create telescopic glasses for near or far tasks. If you are interested, you might search for ‘low vision specialist near me.’

Driving with Bioptics

Some people use the word ‘bioptic’ to mean that telescopes are mounted on both lenses of the eyeglasses at the top. Most often when referred to for driving, it means the telescopes are mounted above each eye on eyeglasses called carrier lenses which are often prescription eyeglasses. With some of them, the telescopes can be slipped over prescription eyeglasses. They don’t cover the eyes and are used for tasks such as reading road signs. The driver is looking through the regular eyeglasses about 95% of the time. Using the telescopes is like using the rearview and side mirrors - we glance into them and then turn our eyes back to the road.

There are specialists who are involved in this process:

  • A low vision specialist to make the prescription bioptics
  • Sometimes a physician to clear the person based on certain health factors
  • Someone to train the driver to use the bioptic
  • The person who does the testing at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Is it allowed in your state?

Not all states allow this. If you are interested, you can search ‘bioptic driving’ with your state name. Some states require a person to take the vision test without them. That’s because, as I mentioned above, 95% of the time the bioptic driver is using their ‘normal’ vision.

Each state has specifications as to who is a candidate for driving with bioptics.1 Basically:

  • Visual Acuity:  20/60-20/200.
  • Peripheral Vision: Adequate, most states from 120-140 degrees.
  • Color Vision: Must be able to see brake and traffic lights.
  • Type of Vision Impairment: Specific diseases and stages. Someone with advanced macular degeneration, for instance, is not a good candidate.
  • Physical or Cognitive Problems: For example, seizure disorder, are not good candidates.

Sometimes a person’s qualifications aren’t clear cut so decisions are made on an individual basis.

High-tech glasses

Many of the current smart glasses and goggles provide magnification so they give the same abilities as telescopic eyeglasses..and more! Currently, they are expensive with prices that range from $2,500 to $6,000. None of them can be used when driving.

Implantable miniature telescope

The implantable miniature telescope (IMT) can be used by some people who have advanced AMD in both eyes and in the case of wet AMD, when anti-VEGF injections no longer help. The IMT is implanted in only one eye and that eye cannot have had cataract surgery. There are other criteria as well.

Bringing YOUR world closer

I hope you’ve found some ideas that may help. Do you use telescopic glasses? If so, tell us what they help with and what they don’t.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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