The brave new world of virtual reality is driving sight awareness in the South West, thanks to an innovative Torquay optometrist.
Simon Simmonds, a director at the Specsavers Torquay stores, recently used the cutting-edge 4D world as part of a lecture to demonstrate the all-too-real dangers of getting behind the wheel of a car for people who have glaucoma.
He was able to let members of the audience try their hand at a VR simulator, which enabled them to see what it is like to drive normally and then to drive with the effects of glaucoma.
The audience consisted of members of Cornwall Mobility, a charity covering the South West, specialising in helping people with mobility or disability issues gain more independence, in particular through driving.
The charity regularly receives requests from the police, DVLA, GPs, consultants and self-referring people about fitness for driving. With a team of clinicians and driving instructors, they help people learn to drive with a disability or return to driving.
Simon says: ‘Modern technology has brought so many improvements to my professional world in recent years, allowing us to see people’s conditions years before they might otherwise become serious.
‘With VR, we can fully immerse people in a virtual world to give them insights into conditions they could only have imagined before. For the glaucoma hazard awareness driving simulation, users can see exactly how much more difficult it is to see sufficiently with a restricted field of vision and how dangerous it can be to drive with impeded vision.
‘At Specsavers, we are always keen to raise awareness of the importance of regular eye tests in not only checking your vision, but also for the overall health of your eye and to prevent avoidable sight loss.
‘So it seemed a great idea to help the charity by using VR to inform and educate their staff on various eye conditions and the effect they have on people’s visual field in particular.’
Symptoms of glaucoma can include blurred vision or seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights. The condition usually happens when naturally occurring fluid inside the eye does not drain properly, leading to a build-up of pressure. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.
Emma Hallett, a driving assessor from Cornwall Mobility, says: ‘The virtual reality experience for glaucoma was fascinating to see. You could really get a feel of what it was like to be affected with glaucoma.
‘So I would like to thank Simon and Specsavers for this experience. It was very informative and very useful. Being able to discuss visual field and eye conditions with an eye-care professional was really beneficial.’
As part of the DVLA requirements for driving, there is a focus on being able to read a number plate at 20 metres, but drivers are often unaware that there is also a requirement to have a good field of vision.
Specsavers is the sole partner of the DVLA to deliver drivers’ medical visual field and visual acuity testing.
Simon adds: ‘If you have been referred to us by the DVLA for a driver’s visual field and acuity test, you will receive a letter with details of your nearest stores so that you can make an appointment.’
For further information on Driving Assessments or the work that Cornwall Mobility does, you can contact 01872 672318 or visit www.cornwallmobility.co.uk.
To book an appointment at Specsavers Torquay, telephone 01803 614474 or go online at www.specsavers.co.uk/stores/torquay
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