There are around 1.267 million drivers with disabilities in the UK. Not only is learning to drive with a disability possible thanks to vehicle modifications, but it’s also a great way to increase your independence and freedom. For some, it can even be an exciting career — just look at Warren McKinlay and Jamie Falvey, the first ever all-disabled racing team to race the legendary Le Mans circuit recently.
You usually need to be 17 years old to hold a driver’s licence. However, if you’re a recipient of either the enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the minimum age drops to 16. You also need to let the DVLA know about your disability. All disabilities and medical conditions must be declared on the provisional licence application — otherwise you risk a £1000 fine. If you already have a licence and have recently developed a medical disability, you also need to inform the DVLA. The DVLA then determines whether you meet the medical standards of fitness to drive, as well as informs you about necessary vehicle modifications.
Learning to drive
After applying for a provisional licence, you may want to look for trained local instructors with tuition cars featuring specific modifications. However, if you need significant modifications, consider investing in your own car to learn in. Modifications may include large door handles, high or extra-wide doors, support handles to help you enter and exit, and adjustable foot pedals. You may also need a seat adjuster and dashboard-mounted ignition. If you have a child with a disability like cerebral palsy (CP), you can also install suitable adaptive seating devices to improve their sitting posture in the car, as recommended by CP Family Network (https://cpfamilynetwork.org/). Saddle seats, for example, maintain hip flexion, so children with spastic CP can enjoy journeys comfortably.
Your driving test
Allowances during your theory and practical test may be made to accommodate your disability, such as extra time for the examiner to explain any necessary modifications. Let the centre know about your disability and possible provisions needed when booking your tests. You’ll also take the practical test in a car suitable for your unique needs, whether it’s automatic, manual, or modified.
Learning to drive is a great way for people with disabilities to increase their independence and quality of life. By researching all you can about driving with a disability, you can ensure you remain legal and safe on the road.