It's Official! Today I am the holder of an 'open' drivers license!
in the photo to the right in the section titled 'Class' of license you can see a 'C' is for car and 'R' for motorcycle rider. For both, the provisional status ceases today, 12 July 2020.
And, in section titled 'Conditions' you see a 'P', 'S', X'. The P per the above is the provisional status that ends today. It is still listed on my license because at the time I went into Access Canberra to apply and pay for my open license I still held the P status. So this new license, even though the new colour, has dates of when the P ends - this is standard practice. Its also standard practice that first open license you hold is only for three years instead of the standard five years (or you can pay for a one year).
The other two conditions; 'S' for spectacles and 'X' for documented condition are listed on a piece of paper connected to my license. the spectacle condition is very common, if you are required to wear glasses then you have a 'conditional' drivers license where you must wear your spectacles/glasses. That's me too. But! because I am a bioptic driver, I have an added condition that I must wear my bioptic. And due to my very unique eyesight condition, during the day I must wear tints on the top of the my bioptic. So the 'X' condition is generally a medical requirement when you are driving. And for me, that's bloody fantastic! Because without the tints and bioptic I would never have been able to drive, not just get the drivers license so for me it's a no brainer! Here is my document conditions card:
Wow! Surreal, but not as surreal as each milestone from the begining of my journey. Along the way its less all consuming and difficult mentally, emotionally and physically. But, that's not to say its easy. Because it is not. Here's just a few dot points of the challenges I have had to overcome to get to this point:
- being told as a child and teen that there is nothing anyone can do, "you will never drive";
- always knowing in my heart if I had the right supports I could drive but it took 30 years;
- occupational therapists in ACT not wanting to be my driving instructor because they had no idea bioptic driving existed and saw me as too high risk;
- having a motorcycle instructor ripe into me on a group ride when asked to lead the group yet one of the other learner riders smacked her scooter into one of the other bikes and fell over- there were calm and kind words from the instructor;
- my own blind community in Australia overtly condemned me for bioptic driving and warning others not to do it;
- almost loosing my license not because I had done anything wrong but because the national regulator was persuaded by one conservative eye doctor based on emotive statements that biooptic drivers are too risky. Being judged negatively based on an attribute I was born with and living in fear that my human rights will be violated when the science shows otherwise;
- for years having to keep secret and hide my joy, my exciting milestones, my later in life journey of living an ordinary life and doing an ordinary thing - getting a drivers license that everyone else sees as a right of passage as a teen and jokes about learning mistakes. For me and others with medical conditions, the prejudice is real. We are not afforded that normal training of mistakes and any mistake is put back on us in a way it is because of our medical condition.
The hardest barriers have been and continue to be 'attitude'. Driving these days for eyesight is no long the fixed yes or no of 6/12 from the 1950s/60s. Today we are about functional assessments and reasonable adjustment along with occupational therapy and conditions. It's a different world where the science shows bioptic drivers can be safe drivers.
Along with the personal barriers I have had to move through to become a bioptic driver, we as a group face an existential barrier of whether bioptic driving will continue at all in Australia, remain stagnant as it is now with only a handful of specialists meaning supply is severely hampered. Or, if decision makers today have the political courage to listen to the science, embrace technology, honor human rights and expand economic opportunities to implement an Australian bioptic driving framework.
This is why we set up Bioptic Drivers Australia:
I am proud of me and I am proud of all you who share this journey: drivers and assessor/trainers alike.