Consumer Information

Ophthalmic Dispensers and Their Services


What is a licensed ophthalmic dispenser?

An ophthalmic dispenser - commonly called an "optician" - is a licensed health care professional who adapts and fits lenses to correct deficiencies, deformities, or abnormalities of the eyes based on a written prescription from a licensed physician or optometrist. Contact lens practitioners are ophthalmic dispensers who are certified to fit contact lenses. Ophthalmic dispensers and certified contact lens practitioners work to:

  • achieve the best visual clarity possible for their customers;
  • assist in the selection of frames; and
  • choose appropriate ophthalmic lenses or contact lenses to suit your needs.

What credentials does a New York licensed ophthalmic dispenser have?

New York ophthalmic dispensers have either graduated from an approved two-year associate degree program in ophthalmic dispensing

OR

have completed an approved two-year on-the-job training program under the supervision of a licensed ophthalmic dispenser, physician, or optometrist.

Ophthalmic dispensers have also passed national and State written examinations and a State practical examination.


What kinds of services do ophthalmic dispensers and certified contact lens practitioners offer?

Ophthalmic dispensers perform the following services:

  • determine what lenses will best fit a prescription
  • select lenses to suit the customer's visual needs and lifestyle
  • instruct in the proper care of glasses
  • participate in customer education

Certified contact lens practitioners do all of these things as well as fit contact lenses.


Where do ophthalmic dispensers and certified contact lens practitioners practice?

Ophthalmic dispensers practice in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, clinics, laboratories, ophthalmology and optometric practices, and optical chain stores.


What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.


How do I obtain the services of an ophthalmic dispenser or a contact lens professional?

Ophthalmologists or optometrists may refer you to an ophthalmic dispenser. You may also check the yellow pages of the phone book under "Opticians" or "Contact Lenses." In addition, local optical societies may have member directories available.

The State Board for Ophthalmic Dispensing cannot refer you to a provider.


Can I buy my prescription eyeglasses online?

New York State law requires prescription eyewear to be fitted and dispensed in person by a licensed practitioner (ophthamlic dispenser/optician, optometrist, ophthalmologist). Although any number of websites offer the sale of eyewear, the consumer must be aware of a number of things. Prescription eyeglasses are highly customized. There are numerous measurements that go into the fitting and fabrication that cannot be conveyed over the phone or internet. These include, but are not limited to: the shape of your nose and ears, the width of your face and the overall size of your head. Measurements such as these, and bifocal or multifocal height, can only be measured when you are face to face with a dispenser wearing the eyeglass frames you are planning to purchase.

In addition, the form, thickness, and material that your prescription lenses are made of should be discussed with your eyecare professional. A bargain that may be advertised online may result in a pair of glasses being heavier than necessary, or cause eye fatigue or headache.

New Yorkers are advised to be wise consumers and consult their eyecare professional.


What records does my ophthalmic dispenser retain? Can anyone else get them?

Your file contains a record of your evaluation and your prescription. Ophthalmic dispensers must keep client records for six years or until the client turns 22, whichever is longer.

Generally, your records are confidential unless you approve their release. Ask your professional about exceptions to this. If you want a copy of your records, provide your ophthalmic dispenser with a written request. You may be charged a reasonable fee to offset the cost of providing copies.


How can I evaluate the quality of care I am receiving from my ophthalmic dispenser or contact lens practitioner?

You should be able to answer Yes to each statement below:

  • Were my visual needs met?
  • Did I receive the assistance I needed with the selection of my frame?
  • Is my frame comfortable?
  • Was I properly instructed in the care of my eyeglasses or contact lenses?
  • Did the ophthalmic dispenser wear an identification badge showing name and title?
  • Is my practitioner readily available when I have questions?

Verifying a New York license

New York ophthalmic dispensers must display a current New York registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional's name, address, and dates of the registration period. If the letter "C" precedes the license number on the registration certificate, the ophthalmic dispenser is certified to fit contact lenses. Ophthalmic dispensers must also wear a clearly visible identifying badge that lists their name and professional title.

Once licensed, ophthalmic dispensers must reregister every three years to practice in New York. Some professionals also display their original New York license, diploma, licenses from other states, and membership certificates. You may verify licenses on this site.

Last Updated: June 8, 2010