The main goal of low vision care is to help a person reclaim their independence when there are visual challenges that are preventing them from living the quality of life that they would like. One of the major approaches to accomplish this is to magnify the target object a person is looking at in order to make it easier to see. Often when we think of magnification, it relates to performing tasks up close and using some form of a magnifying glass which requires the person to look from very close. However, what happens when a person wants something to be magnified but it is far in the distance? That is where the telescope comes into play. 

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What are telescopes for Low Vision Use?

Telescopes magnify objects that are at a distance, allowing people with low vision to accomplish so many daily functions that need to be performed from a distance that isn’t right up close. When you stop to think about how much of our daily living involves people or objects at a distance it becomes evident that solely relying on microscopes for tasks at a near distance does not begin to cover all the essential visual demands. For example, being able to recognize faces of people approaching at any distance farther than an arm’s reach, or the number of a bus coming from far, or enjoying a show at the theater, just to name a few. There is no reason why visual challenges should take these experiences away and isolate a person.

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Galilean vs Kepler Telescopes

There are two main categories of telescopes, Galilean and Kepler, and each have their own unique features:


Features  Galilean Telescope Kepler Telescope
Optics Has one plus lens and one minus lens Has two plus lenses
Weight  Lightweight  Heavier 
Field of view  Narrow  At least twice as wide as Galilean telescopes


There are different styles of telescopes which are all mainly available as both optical systems of Glilean or Kepler telescopes. The different kinds of telescopes include clip-ons, glasses that came in the full diameter or bioptic form and hand held telescopes. If you only plan to use the telescope from time to time or if you need a high magnification, for example a 6X or 7X magnification, it could be beneficial to use the handheld telescope. If you want to have your hands available to perform tasks then the mounted telescopes are more useful.

Who can benefit from telescopes?

Who can benefit from telescopes?

If you have lost your central vision, or part of it, and would like to be able to see clearly when looking at objects at a distance, telescopes can help you regain your independence and ability to perform daily tasks.

There are many eye conditions that cause a loss of central vision. Some include:

  • Age related macular degeneration
  • Stargardt’s disease
  • Albinism
  • Optic atrophy
  • Retinal tear
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma 
  • Brain injury
Who can benefit from telescopes?

Who can benefit from telescopes?

Full Diameter Telescopes

The full diameter telescope has the telescope placed in the center of the lens and is wonderful to use when you are stationary. It’s not meant to be used while walking around, but rather for activities that are done while staying in the same spot, such as watching a show or a sports game. An additional feature of this telescope is that you can add something to the telescope, called a reading cap, which allows you to use the same telescope but to view objects at a near or intermediate distance. When you put on a reading cap, it is set for a certain working distance at which point you are able to view clearly.


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Bioptic Telescopes

This kind of telescope has the benefit of being able to be used while you are moving around. The telescope is mounted on the top part of the lens so that you simply bend your head slightly downwards in order to see through the telescope when you want objects at a distance to be magnified, but when you look straight ahead or downwards, you don’t use the telescope. These telescopes are very useful for a variety of situations, including driving or in a classroom when a student needs to see the blackboard in a lecture hall, but also needs to see up close, or for any situation that requires vision at various distances. There are different kinds of bioptic telescopes that come in different magnifications and that offer different sizes of visual fields. For people who benefit from colored filters, the tint can be incorporated into the telescope. Additionally, a reading cap can be added in order to use the telescope to view objects at a closer proximity.

Reading Telescopes

As the name states, this type of telescope is used to be able to read or to do work from up close, specifically at a comfortable distance from the text or target object. These are comparable to magnifying glasses as the purpose is to use them for reading, however the difference is that these are telescopes which means you can read at a further distance than you can with a magnifying glass. The glasses can have your regular prescription along with the telescope and this telescope can even be mounted onto bifocals. You can add a tint when filters are needed. The telescope is placed on the glasses on the bottom inner part of the lens so that you can look down to read using the telescopes but you can use the rest of your lens for regular activity without using the telescopes.

The telescopes come in a variety of powers and your optometrist will fit you with the best telescope for your needs and visual capabilities. There is a 1.7 x Reading Telescope that allows you to see a whole column at once, making reading easier as more text can be viewed. It is easy to fit, can be used with any prescription glasses and it is available as a monocular or binocular option.

Who can benefit from telescopes?
Who can benefit from telescopes?

Special Feature Telescopes

There are a variety of special features that build on the traditional telescopes to offer different functions. Some examples include the Bio Micro EF telescope which is a Kepler telescope that is lightweight and provides binocularity with a wide visual field with a 3.5 x or 4.5 x magnification. There is the Politzer line of telescopes which could be Full Diameter or Bioptic and due to the unique optics of the telescope, it allows for a wider visual field. There is the Eagle Eye Telescopic System which is a more cosmetically appealing telescope, in that the telescope lenses are less noticeable. The telescope part of the glasses is quite small relative to the rest of the glasses and it’s placed in the top inner corner, like the Bioptic position.

There is also a telescope known as the Honey Bee Lens System which involves prisms. It brings images from the periphery into the center in order to help with visual field loss. It uses three attached telescopes of the same magnification side by side to provide the biggest visual field possible. On top of the telescopes, there are prisms used to angle the visual field to the middle telescope in order to provide the widest visual field possible.

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Common Questions

There are states that issue a special permit for the usage of bioptic telescopes while driving for those who do not pass the regular vision requirements for driving. These unique telescopic spectacles enable people to switch between magnified and standard views, usually by adjusting focus from the upper part which features the mounted telescopes to the lower section called the “carriage” which provides standard vision. There are many versions of these glasses, from simple flip-top models where you can raise the telescopes, to automated focusing options. Depending on the eye disorder and level of severity, these glasses often provide the required improvement in vision which enables people to safely and legally drive a vehicle according to their state's DMV laws. U.S. states such as Tennessee permit the use of these glasses, provided that all of the additional criteria are met.
There isn't a current federal U.S. standard to regulate driving for people with vision impairment. While all U.S. states test visual acuity with a LogMAR wall chart to ensure that drivers can safely operate a non-commercial vehicle, not all states require field tests to drive. Most states require a Best Corrected Vision Acuity (BCVA) of 20/40, which permits the use of corrective lenses to achieve the requisite level. In addition to satisfying minimum standards of acuity, drivers must be free of mental impairments that can affect their ability to drive. Not all low vision impairments require total cessation of driving. Depending upon the condition, our low vision optometrist may encourage a person to refrain from night-time driving, if the issue is primarily relegated to driving when it is dark outside. In such instances, the individual may be able to continue driving during daylight hours. In other instances, many drivers are able to continue to drive normally with the aid of prescribed visual aids such as telescopes, filters, anti reflective coatings or therapies from a low vision optometrist.
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Telescopes serve a very important function for people with low vision. Our optometrist near you can discuss with you your daily visual demands in order to recommend and fit you with the best telescope for you. There is no reason to deprive yourself of being able to see clearly at a distance when there is a wonderful variety of telescopes available. Please book your low vision consultation today by reaching out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit.

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