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Back to Basics

Testing Visual Acuity with the Jaeger Eye Chart

by S. L. Weatherly*
The basics need to be read or listened to over and over. This
is because some of us forget and others of us never knew.
This month's author gives us a short, easy to read article on
understanding the use of the Jaeger chart for testing visual
acuity. This may be a "Play It Again, Sam," scenario, but it is
a good "Back to Basics" for those who have forgotten or
those who never knew.
Frank Iddings
Tutorial Projects Editor

All personnel certifying in nondestructive testing (NDT) require an eye

examination. Over the years, one of the standard reference charts has been the
Jaeger eye chart (Figure 1). However, when purchased, this chart does not come
with instructions. The following article explains some of my findings on the usage
of the Jaeger eye chart.

Figure 1 - The Jaeger eye chart is commonly used to test near vision of NDT
Jaegar Eye Chart Specifications
NDT personnel who have had to use multiple specifications have realized, over
the years, the degree of differences between specifications when it comes to the

certification of personnel for visual acuity. NAS 410 (1996) recommends "Near
Vision - Jaeger #1 test chart at not less than 12 inches or equivalent visual
examination as determined by medical personnel." SNT-TC-1A recommends
"Jaeger Number 2 or equivalent type and size letter at the distance designated
on the chart but not less than 12 inches (30.5 cm) on a standard Jaeger test
chart" (ASNT, 2001). After discussions with other NDT personnel, I realized that
confusion exists with the interpretation of these recommendations. The following
questions quickly became apparent.

The indication of the mere presence or absence of a

crack is not enough.

Does the Jaeger eye test measure distance vision, near vision or both?
Does the Jaeger eye chart have to be held at exactly 305 mm (12 in.) or is 508
mm (20 in.) - an extended arms length - an acceptable distance?
Why use Jaeger number one or number two?
One would think that with multiple years of experience in NDT, these questions
would be easy to answer, but even with research the answers are not all that

Jaeger and Snellen Eye Chart Differences and Specifications

The Snellen eye chart is the eye chart most of us have seen at the optometrist's
office. This is the familiar chart with the big E 20/200 at the top and progressively
smaller letters at the bottom of the chart down to 20/20 or better. This is a chart
for measuring visual acuity at a distance - in other words, how well you can see
things that are far away.
The Jaeger eye chart is used for reading up close and for determining your near
vision, which is an important issue if you are viewing X-ray film or looking for a
crack in a part held in your hands. When reviewing the chart, you will see the
notation J1 next to the paragraph with the smallest text and each progressive
paragraph of larger text is noted with an increase in the J number. Also centered
above each paragraph is a number. The number 15 is centered above the
smallest text line noted as J1. This number represents 20/15 vision. J2 has the

number 20, for 20/20 vision. As you progress to larger lettered paragraphs, the
lettering size increases for lesser visual acuity.
When I took my eye exam, I could read the 20/20 line on the Snellen chart
without glasses, but when I was handed the Jaeger eye chart and told to hold it
approximately 305 mm (12 in.) from my eyes and read the J1 line, I could not
read it. At about 406 mm (16 in.), it became clearer and I could read it. With
reading glasses, it was readable at 305 mm (12 in.). This was like trying to read
the menu at a restaurant when you keep moving the menu further and further
away. For those of you who are younger technicians, if you don't know what I'm
talking about, wait until you are about 40 or 50 years old and it will become
apparent. The Jaeger eye chart measures near vision, not distance vision.
The second part of the question is, does the chart have to be held at exactly 305
mm (12 in.). Some specifications state that the chart can't be held less than 305
mm (12 in.) away while other specifications state that 356 to 406 mm (14 to 16
in.) is acceptable. This seems to suggest that it is acceptable to hold the chart
356 mm (14 in.) away. What if I have to move it out to arms' length? The
standard accepted distance, although not stated on the chart but accepted by the
optometry industry, is 305 to 356 mm (12 to 14 in.).
Addressing the third question, Jaeger number one is a smaller text than Jaeger
number two and would be required depending on the criticality of the testing to
be performed. As mentioned previously, the J1 line is 20/15 vision, which is a
visual acuity that is better than the derived average of 20/20. It should be noted
that this more restrictive requirement might unduly eliminate good inspectors.
Therefore, I would advise caution when reviewing visual acuity requirements or
generating new industry specifications.

Specifications that require J1 near vision and 20/30 distance vision almost seem
contradictory. However, the inspector and the person performing the eye
examination must understand that one part of the statement is asking for near
vision acuity and the other part is used to determine distance acuity.
As an NDT person, I currently have to apply and use the various specifications to
the best of my ability, not as a medically trained person but as one who has
researched the issue and has arrived at the best possible understanding of the
specification to be applied. Yes, our industry may be better served if we
standardized the type of chart to be used and were more specific regarding
requirements such as the distance at which to read the chart. However,
sometimes standardization leads to more restrictions and increased cost. I think
that you can see the point from the discussion above. You may technically pass
the test by holding the chart at some greater distance but as a professional

inspector, it seems that you would want to provide the best possible test by
providing yourself with the best possible vision.

ASNT, Recommended Practice No. SNT-TC-1A, The American Society for
Nondestructive Testing, 2001.
NAS 410, MIL-STD-410E NAS Certification & Qualification of Nondestructive
Test Personnel, Aerospace Industries Association of America, Inc., Washington,
DC, 1996.
* The Boeing Company, 2401 E. Wardlow Rd., Mail Code C1 054-0023, Long
Beach, CA 90807; (562) 982-7073; fax (562) 593-9581;e-mail
Copyright 2002 by the American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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