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20/30 vision or better still required under new “vision waiver”

Details of the Ontario government’s new vision waiver program are now available online.

A new regulation under the Highway Traffic Act for commercial drivers who have reduced vision will allow commercial drivers to demonstrate their ability to compensate for their vision loss and if successful, maintain their mobility and livelihood. Regulation 340/94 will allow for the implementation of a commercial vision waiver program which would establish an individualized assessment program for Class A, C, D and F drivers.

“Unfortunately, e-laws is currently a few weeks behind. In regards to the link to the regulation, the updates will be made in the coming weeks to O/Reg. 340/94,” Stella Velocci of the Transportation Safety Division, Ministry of Transportation replied in an email. “Please see the attached link to the filed (source law) regulation.”

In addition to other significant requirements including the absence of health concerns, license suspension or having more than two demerit points, drivers must demonstrate visual acuity with or without corrective lenses that is not poorer than 20/30 with both eyes open and examined together, or if the applicant has vision in only one eye, is not poorer than 20/30 in the one eye.

The driver must have a horizontal visual field of at least 120 continuous degrees as measured along the horizontal meridian and at least 15 continuous degrees above and below fixation, with both eyes open and examined together; or, if the applicant has vision in only one eye, has the horizontal visual field as described in the one eye.

In a ruling handed down one year ago in July, 2020, Ontario Superior Court Justice Jessica Kimmel decided that Ontario’s vision testing rules, aimed at enhancing road safety, are unfair to the monocular — those with sight in only one eye.

Kimmel’s decision came as a result of a court challenge brought by Liliana Di Cienzo, a bus driver with a perfect driving record who lost her right eye to cancer in October 2013 when she was 41 years old. As a result, Ontario revoked her Class C commercial licence under a section of the Highway Traffic Act that bars a person with one eye from holding the permit.

“These vision standards are based on, and perpetuate, the stereotype that monocular drivers are not able to safely drive public transit vehicles,” Kimmel found. “They create or perpetuate a discriminatory disadvantage without allowing for individual exemption based on the actual driving capabilities and characteristics of individual monocular drivers.”

On its detailed webpage titled “Medical review for Ontario drivers,” the Ministry of Transportation notes, “Effective July 2021, if you don’t meet the vision standards for a commercial licence class, you may be considered for a vision waiver for a Class A, C, D or F licence…you will need to provide a completed Commercial Vision Waiver application package that includes a satisfactory medical report, and a satisfactory vision assessment from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

“If your medical and vision reports are approved, you must complete a satisfactory functional driving assessment from an approved assessment centre for Vision Waivers. This assessment consists of several standardized tests, both in clinic and on-road.”

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Full text of the amendment is as follows:

ONTARIO REGULATION 504/21, made under the Highway Traffic Act on June 24, 2021, has been amended by adding the following sections:

21.3 (1) The Minister may waive the qualifications set out in clauses 18 (3) (a) and (b) and 18 (4) (d) and (e), for an applicant for or a holder of a Class A, C, D or F driver’s licence if,

(a)  the applicant or holder provides evidence that he or she has successfully completed the tests, procedures and examinations that the Minister may require; and

(b)  the applicant or holder,

(i)  meets all of the other qualifications set out in this Regulation for the applicable class of driver’s licence,

(ii)  has a visual acuity as measured by Snellen Rating, with or without corrective lenses, that,

(A)  is not poorer than 20/30 with both eyes open and examined together, or

(B)  if the applicant has vision in only one eye, is not poorer than 20/30 in the one eye,

(iii)  subject to subsection (2), has a horizontal visual field of,

(A)  at least 120 continuous degrees as measured along the horizontal meridian and at least 15 continuous degrees above and below fixation, with both eyes open and examined together, or

(B)  if the applicant has vision in only one eye, has the horizontal visual field described in sub-subclause (A) in the one eye,

(iv)  has held a valid Class G driver’s licence, or a driver’s licence of an equivalent class, for at least the two years immediately preceding the application,

(v)  has not been able to meet the qualifications set out in clauses 18 (3) (a) and (b) and 18 (4) (d) and (e) for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application,

(vi)  does not have a medical condition or disability that requires a Ministerial waiver from the qualifications for obtaining any class of driver’s licence prescribed in the Act or the regulations other than the waiver under this subsection,

(vii)  does not have a medical or visual condition or disability that, alone or combined with a reduced horizontal visual field, may significantly impair his or her ability to drive, including,

(A)  a neurological deficit or disorder, including epilepsy,

(B)  diabetes that requires insulin for control,

(C)  hypotension, or

(D)  an impairment resulting from dementia, stroke, brain tumour, brain surgery, head trauma or arthritis,

(viii)  does not have more than two demerit points on his or her driving record,

(ix)  did not have his or her driver’s licence under suspension at any time within the preceding five years pursuant to section 48, 48.0.1, 48.0.2, 48.0.3, 48.0.4, 48.1, 48.2.1, 48.2.2, 48.3, 48.3.1, 53, 78 or 78.1, subsection 128 (15) or section 130, 172, 200 or 216 of the Act, or as a result of a conviction under the Criminal Code (Canada) for an offence committed by means of a motor vehicle or while driving or having the care, charge or control of a motor vehicle, and

(x)  was not, during any period of time within the preceding five years that he or she was unable to meet the requirements of clause 18 (3) (a) or (b) or 18 (4) (d) or (e), involved in a collision the circumstances of which also gave rise to a conviction for contravening or failing to comply with section 128, 130, 136, 138, 140, 141, 147, 148, 154, 156, 158 or 172 or 175 of the Act

(2) Despite subclause (1) (b) (iii), the Minister may grant a waiver under subsection (1) where the Minister is satisfied that the applicant has a horizontal visual field that is not so fragmented or incomplete that the size, shape, nature or relative position of the defects in it or along the horizontal meridian or above or below fixation may significantly impair his or her ability to drive safely.

(3) The Minister may revoke a waiver given under subsection (1) at any time and for any sufficient reason including the following:

  1. The holder no longer satisfies the conditions or requirements under this section or does not satisfy new conditions or requirements under this section.
  2. The holder has been involved in a collision and the Minister has reviewed the circumstances of the collision and determined that revoking the waiver is in the interests of road safety.

(4) The Minister may require a holder to whom a waiver has previously been granted to reapply for the waiver.

(5) It is a condition of a driver’s licence for which the holder has received a waiver under subsection (1) that the holder provide information about his or her driving to the Minister in the format required, including information about the distance that he or she has driven.

Commencement

  1. This Regulation comes into force on the later of July 1, 2021 and the day it is filed.