Man who was nearly blind as a baby gets licence at 25 video

DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Palmerston North man Tommy Roberts can now drive, thanks to the help of some new frames.

A man who was nearly blind as a baby has got his driver's licence with the help of hi-tech glasses.

Tommy Roberts, 25, was told he would never be able to drive because a rare condition, ocular albinism, left him with blurred vision and a severe sensitivity to light.

When Roberts was at high school he watched his friends gain their freedom, but he was left dependent on others as he couldn't sit his licence. 

Tommy Roberts was told he would never drive. But hi-tech glasses have enabled him to get his driver's licence.
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Tommy Roberts was told he would never drive. But hi-tech glasses have enabled him to get his driver's licence.

Roberts, from Palmerston North, wears sunglasses rain, hail or shine, and without correctional lenses he can only read text 10 centimetres from his face.

Now, with his new bioptic glasses, on top of his regular contacts, he is finally able to drive.

Roberts had 15 compulsory driving lessons before he was able to get his learner's licence in December. 

Tommy Roberts, 25, shows off the glasses that helped him get his driver's licence.
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Tommy Roberts, 25, shows off the glasses that helped him get his driver's licence.

Then he took the following months to adjust to the new apparatus before getting his restricted licence. The gruelling process was all worth it for the freedom he now has to do small things, such as driving to Linton to see his parents. 

Before Roberts got his licence, he often caught the bus, which he said was a good option, but it meant he was always reliant on someone else's schedule.

Roberts had never had the option of driving to the local store to get a bottle of milk when it was pouring with rain, he said.

"It's pretty cool. [Until now] I've always been relying on people.

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"I can sober-drive now. It's nice to be able to pay it back a bit."

Visique Eye Spy optometrist Maille Tarsau​ said ocular albinism was a hereditary condition that occurred in  one in 60,000 men and  one in 50,000 women.

The help and technology for Roberts had been limited until now, she said. 

Even with the best contact lenses or the strongest glasses, Roberts' vision was still shy of the driving standard without the bioptics, Tarsau said. 

"Prior to this being a possibility, we had always not wanted to get his hopes up about driving.

"It's a huge game-changer for Tommy. It's a huge lift for him."

Roberts' eyesight is bound to worsen with old age, but he said it was something he did not want to worry about. For now, he is focusing on enjoying his new-found freedom.

 - Stuff

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