Driving With A Disability: Everything You Need To Know

Having a disability does not necessarily mean that you cannot drive. Disabilities can have an impact on day to day living but it need not mean that you cannot enjoy the freedom of being able to drive. In fact, although it can be more of a challenge, learning to drive with a disability can also help you to be more independent and feel more confident.

It is important to know the facts about driving with a disability to help you keep safe and legal on the road. Read on to learn everything you may need to know from our helpful article.

Driving with a disability guide

Car modifications for disabled drivers

There are many modifications that can be made to ensure that a car is suited to your needs. Technological improvements mean that it is now easier to learn to drive with a disability. For example, you may find it easier to learn to drive an automatic car than a manual one.

Modified cars can make driving easier in various ways. Modifications may include, for example, hand controls for those who would struggle to operate foot pedals, special seating, or seat belt harnesses. But modifications could also apply to the use of the steering wheel, gear stick, handbrake, and controls for the indicators, headlights and windscreen wipers.

It is important to bear in mind that the type of car you pass your test in, will be the type of car that you are qualified to drive. So, if you pass your test in an automatic car, you will need to drive an automatic as you won’t be qualified to drive a manual car. Likewise, if you pass your test in a modified car, you will need to drive a car with the same modifications. The restriction codes on your driving licence will tell you what type of car you are able to drive.

disabled driver

Contact the DVLA

It is essential that you let the DVLA know of any disability or medical condition that may have an impact on your ability to drive. If you fail to do this, you could face fines of up to £1000. New drivers who are applying for their provisional licence should declare all disabilities and medical conditions on their application form. Drivers who are already qualified and develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability, should inform the DVLA at the earliest possible opportunity. You should not wait until your licence is due for renewal. Drivers should also inform the DVLA straight away if any disability or medical condition has got worse since their driving licence was issued.

Aside from physical disabilities, living with a mental health condition, such as psychosis, psychotic depression, or schizophrenia, could impact on your ability to drive. It is important that you inform the DVLA of any such conditions. They will assess whether you can safely continue driving or whether you should stop driving for a period of time.

Learning disabilities can also seriously impact on your ability to drive as this can affect the way that you learn new things. You must inform the DVLA of any learning disabilities, except for dyslexia and dyspraxia. If you have dyslexia or dyspraxia, you may want to let your theory test centre know, as they may be able to provide additional time or support to help you take the test.

Once they have been notified of any disabilities or medical conditions, the DVLA will make an assessment as to whether or not you comply with the medical standards of fitness to drive. They will also provide you with information of any modifications you need to make to your vehicle.

Get ready for your driving test

You can seek assistance from a ‘driving mobility’ assessment centre. These are based around the country and offer professional advice on whether you would meet the medical standards for driving. You can choose to take a driving assessment. This will involve an interview with a clinician or a driving instructor, as well as a physical assessment if necessary. The physical assessment will look at what adaptations, if any, you may need to your vehicle to enable you to safely and easily drive it.

When learning to drive, you can look for a specially trained driving instructor with a tuition car that has been modified for drivers with disabilities. You should be aware that these modifications are likely to be quite basic. It may be the case that you have to buy your own car to meet your modification needs. However, you should find that most driving instructors are happy to offer lessons in your own car.

Generally, motorists needs to be 17 years old before they can hold a driving licence. But it is worth knowing that if you receive the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the enhanced mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), you can actually hold a licence from 16 years old.

If you receive the higher rate mobility component of DLA or the enhanced mobility component of PIP, you can also apply for an exemption from paying car tax. You can only register for one vehicle tax exemption at any time. The vehicle must be registered in your name, or your nominated driver’s name where appropriate, and the vehicle must only be used for your personal needs. If you receive the standard mobility component of PIP, you can still get a 50% reduction in car tax. However, if you receive the lower rate mobility component of DLA, you will not be eligible for any car tax reduction or exemption.

All drivers, regardless of any disability or medical condition, need to take the same practical and theory driving tests to become qualified. There are some considerations that can be made, such as extra time or providing you with extra information. You are able to take the practical test in any car that meets your needs, including a specially modified vehicle.

Having extra time for your driving test does not mean that you would be driving for any longer or expected to complete any additional tasks. It simply means that there is extra time allocated at the start of the test. This gives the examiner the opportunity to communicate with drivers, for example. those with hearing difficulties who may need to use written notes, lip reading, sign language or an interpreter. It also gives time for discussion of any physical adaptations that may be needed and any special requirements to overcome learning difficulties. Extra time also allows the possibility of taking a break during the test if this is needed, for example due to fatigue.

When you book your practical driving test, you must state the details of any disability or learning difficulty. These details will be passed on to the driving test examiner and a decision will be made about whether extra time will be allocated. If you are unsure, it is always a good idea to call your local driving test centre to discuss your needs in advance.


Get your Blue Badge

You are probably aware that if you have a disability or medical condition the impacts on your mobility, you may be eligible for a Blue Badge. These allow drivers to park closer to your destination. In many locations, having a Blue Badge also entitles you to free parking or discounted parking fees. You don’t even need to be the driver to benefit from these allowances. If you have a Blue Badge, you can use it in a vehicle when you are travelling as a passenger too.

A Blue Badge entitles you to park in on-street parking bays that are specifically reserved for drivers and passengers with disabilities. However, if you are parking in an off-street car park, it is important to check the regulations for that particular location as car parks, such as those in supermarkets, can follow different rules.

Inform your insurance company

Having a disability should not have any impact on the cost of your car insurance. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 means that it is illegal for an insurance company to refuse to offer you insurance cover on the grounds that you are disabled, or to charge more for your insurance policy on these same grounds.

It is important that you inform your insurance provider of any disabilities or medical conditions. If you don’t do this, it could invalidate your insurance cover. If you are not sure whether your insurance meets your specific needs as a driver, always take the time to contact your insurance company and check this out. It is likely that you will need to speak directly to insurance providers to ensure that any particular needs are covered. For example, this could include what type of courtesy car you would require, or any named drivers that you would need added to your policy.

Being able to drive offers independence and can be helpful with the practicalities of life. It allows you to get out and about without having to rely on lifts from other people or taking public transport. Driving with a disability is definitely possible and, with the right support, you’ll be enjoying the freedom of the road in no time.