For people with a visual impairment, driving a car is not as straightforward as it is for most people. Being visually impaired does not always mean that obtaining a driving license is impossible, but people with visual impairments do need to be regularly examined. Rejected for the normal driver’s license? In the past, you would have been out of luck, but since 2009 there is a new regulation: driving with a bioptic telescope (BTS). Kirsten Smit (21) is happy to tell us about her experience with the BTS.

Hello! I am Kirsten Smit. I am 21 years old, and I study Fine Arts and Design in Education in Groningen. I also have ADOA and currently only have 30% vision.

When I was little, it already became clear that driving a car was not for me. The limit for driving is 50% vision, which I had already passed at that point. I have always found this a bit unfortunate, but there were no exceptions or regulations to assist visually impaired people at that time. When I turned 16, I got my scooter license, because there are no medical requirements or examinations for that. I was very happy with it. I always enjoyed riding my scooter and jokingly said I would later pick a very handsome car driver who could drive me around, since I was not allowed to do so. But when I turned 17, it was suddenly possible for me to drive a car while using a device called a BTS. A BTS is a kind of spectacle with a telescope in it that allows you, for example, to see the road signs or exceptional situations on the road. It took some getting used to, but after a lot of special lessons at VISIO in Haren and driving lessons with Rosita, I learned to drive using this brand-new device. It was like a whole new world opened for me, even though there were exceptions and limits attached to my license. For example, I was only allowed to drive one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset. During the summer, this is fine; however, during winter this can be come increasingly difficult. The sun already goes down around five o’ clock.

Even this changed a year ago. All people using a BTS to drive were allowed to take the driving test again, individually, but this time for driving in the dark. I attended the exam together with my mum and passed it! Now I can drive with the BTS whenever I like.

I live in Groningen, so I often drive home to Drenthe over the weekends. It’s nice that it can be done this way today and that I now can be my own handsome driver 🙂

Kirsten has emailed the created of the BTS with some questions. WE hope to get an answer soon, so we can share some more information with you!