Having a disability shouldn't be an obstacle to driving. The specially-trained driving instructors who are members of the Association of Disability Driving Instructors all have cars with adaptations designed to help people with physical disabilities, special educational needs and hearing difficulties learn to drive and get behind the wheel of their own vehicle.
People with a disability who need specialist driving tuition often find it difficult to locate an experienced and approved driving instructor with an adapted or automatic vehicle. The Disability Driving Instructors database of approved specialist instructors means people with a disability have a place where they can find a local driving instructor, together with impartial advice about learning to drive, how to return to driving after an accident or illness and how to stay safe on the road.
Everyone is different, so it will depend on your individual circumstances.
In recent years the technological improvements that have been made to cars have made it easier than ever for more people with a disability to learn to drive, and there's a huge range of vehicle options, specialist modifications and adaptations available to help people to drive safely and comfortably.
All new drivers should take driving lessons and if you have a disability, you may prefer to learn to drive with a driving instructor who has experience in teaching people with disabilities. A driving instructor who specialises in teaching disabled people to drive will be more aware of your needs and will be able to show you how to use some of the specially fitted driving adaptations correctly (if you need them).
If you are planning on driving a new vehicle that you lease through the Motability Scheme, you may also be able to get a grant to help towards the cost of the lessons.
If you have a disability and you want to learn to drive to get started you'll need to apply for a provisional licence through the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA). On the application they will ask you to list all your medical conditions so that they can assess whether or not you comply with the medical standards that mean you are considered fit to drive.
Your local Driving Mobility centre or specially-trained driving instructor will be able to provide you with advice and information on whether you would be likely to meet the required medical standards of 'fitness to drive'. They may suggest an adaptation that could make driving or getting into a vehicle easier for you. This could be something simple like a steering wheel ball, a transfer plate or an adaptation like a left foot accelerator. They may also suggest that driving could be made easier by switching to a vehicle with an automatic gearbox.
For people with a more severe disability the adaptations may need to be more complex. As soon as you have your provisional driving licence you can start to learn to drive.
If you already know how to drive but would like to start driving again after an illness or injury that has left you with a disability it's likely that the DVLA will need to be informed. Your doctor or a professional from a Driving Mobility centre will be able to advise you if you are unsure.
The DVLA will assess your condition and decide whether you can keep your current driving licence or if you'll need a new or a shorter licence. They may even recommend an adapted vehicle.
If you are unsure about your ability to drive safely you or your doctor could refer you to a Driving Mobility assessment centre. A practical driving assessment would assess your medical fitness to drive and check your in-car driving ability, after which the qualified assessors would make a series of recommendations for you to follow.
To help people with a disability gain access to driving lessons the Motability charity have a Driving Lessons Grant Programme that provides grants to help people pay for specialist driving lessons.
These charitable grants are means tested (which means they are only awarded to those in the greatest need) and they are available to people want to learn to drive who either currently have a vehicle leased through the Motability Scheme or who have applied to join the Motability Scheme and have a vehicle on order (that will be handed over within the next four months).
People who already have a driving licence but who would like familiarisation lessons with a qualified driving instructor (perhaps to get used to a new adaptation) can also apply for a charitable grant from Motability.
Before being allowed to drive on the roads on your own, whether you drive a car with special adaptations or not, you’ll have to pass the theory and practical driving tests just like everyone else.
All drivers must pass the theory test before being able to take the final practical driving test out on the road.
As soon as you’ve got a good understanding of the Highway Code you can take a test at a local test centre, many of which offer specialist facilities for people with disabilities.
Candidates who have special requirements should mention this when booking the test, as the DVLA may be able to help. For example, you may be allowed extra time to complete the test or, if you have difficulty hearing the video part of the test, this could be accompanied by sign language.
When the times comes, and you feel confident enough you'll take the same practical driving test that every other candidate takes. If you feel that you need extra time to get into and out of the vehicle or to discuss any special vehicle adaptations with the examiner this will be allowed. Driving examiners have been fully trained to understand and adapt to any unique requirements that may arise before, during or after you’ve been out on the road.
Taking the practical part of the driving test is often a nerve-racking experience for new drivers and failing to pass first time is pretty common. If you do fail, you’ll be able to take a few more lessons, build up your confidence and take the test again in a months’ time. With focus and plenty of practice you’ll pass the test and be ready to enjoy the independence that driving your own vehicle brings.
In the UK young person with a disability can learn to drive a car when they reach 16 years of age (a year before everyone else) if they currently receive, or have applied for, the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
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Motability’s all-inclusive 3 year / 60,000 mile car lease package includes:
Insurance cover for 3 named drivers is included.
The cost of servicing and maintaining your car is included.
Full breakdown cover provided by RAC Motability Assist is included.
Tyre and windscreen repair and replacement cover is included.
Motability will automatically tax the vehicle every year.
Many helpful adaptations are available at no extra cost.