I have been shortsighted since I was a small child. I love the freedom of wearing my contact lenses for sports, and I’m also a big fan of chunky statement frames for computer work, which I wear with pride!
However, I used to think that some careers wouldn’t be accessible for me due to my poor eyesight. It wouldn’t be possible for someone who needs sight correction to become a fire fighter, to join the armed forces, or to become a commercial pilot, would it?
Actually, don’t rule out your dream job just because you need glasses! You can become any of the above, and more…
To become a UK commercial pilot or an airline transport pilot, you need to fulfill the Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) to Class 1 standard. This means that you will need a comprehensive eye examination conducted by a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Whilst you do need normal colour vision and binocular vision, you can still train to be a commercial pilot with appropriate sight correction, if you’re short-sighted or long-sighted, in the form of glasses or contact lenses. However, you will require regular eye check-ups to maintain your licence, and you will need to wear sight correction that is suitable for aviation.
To become a Fire Officer with the UK Fire Brigade there is not actually a definitive set of eyesight standards, and the final decision is actually determined by your individual Medical Examiner.
This can make it difficult to understand if your eyesight is sufficient to join the Fire Brigade. However, there are some more detailed guidelines which are recommended by the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisors (ALMA), who will conduct your eye exam. Their visual acuity guidelines specify requirements of 6/18 in your better eye, and in 6/24 in your worse eye. Maximum hyperopia or farsightedness is +3.00D, and there is no set limit for myopia, or shortsightedness, beyond the unaided vision standard.
Take the guidelines to a good optician and you might discover that your sight is sufficient to fight fires, despite your spectacles!
The Armed Forces
You can also join the armed forces with corrective spectacles. Unfortunately, people with sight prescriptions of below -7 for shortsightedness or above +8 for nearsightedness are not currently eligible for acceptance.
However, between this range, the requirements depend upon which regiment you join, as they are skills-based. For instance, candidates for Sandhurst who want to join the Infantry, Foot Guards or Parachute regiments have high standards of sight to meet, and are only accepted with visual acuity test scores of of 6/9 or above in the right eye. Otherwise, Army Scholarships and University Cadetships require a minimum visual acuity with spectacles of 6/6 in one eye, and not less than 6/36 in the other. Normally, the right eye must be correctable to 6/6 except in the Royal Signals, Army Medical Service, REME, AGC and Intelligence Corps, where the right eye may be the worse.
If you’re a contact lens wearer, you may want to think about getting some glasses when you’re applying to the Armed Forces, as you will be required to obtain and wear spectacles if you are successful in any selection procedures. So choose your regiment wisely and have an amazing career!