The national charity Driving Mobility coordinates a network of driving and mobility assessment centres for people with restricted mobility and older drivers.
Many with outreach facilities, these centres provide professional information and assessments to enable disabled drivers who want to gain or retain the ability to access and drive a vehicle - including Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) - safely and in comfort. As well as driving and passenger assessments, specialist services include wheelchair and scooter assessments and help for people who need to load specialist mobility equipment into a vehicle.
Passenger Access Assessments are designed to help people with a disability who have difficulty getting into and out of a vehicle.
The assessment will be tailored to your individual needs, covering areas including your physical and medical condition (both now and in the future), any safety concerns, seating and posture, wheelchair or scooter stowage and your lifestyle requirements.
If you can transfer out of your wheelchair without too much discomfort, the assessor may suggest adjustments and adaptations that can be made to a standard vehicle (such as a simple transfer plate, person hoist or a swivel seat) which means you might not need a WAV.
For many other wheelchair users who can't easily transfer from their chair to a car seat, the assessment may conclude that travelling in a WAV while seated in your wheelchair is the right route to go down.
A driving assessment differs from a driving test as it is designed to review your driving to reach an honest opinion of skills and ability. Driving Mobility assessments are available for potential drivers aged 16 who are in receipt of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and everyone else who is aged 17 or over (there is no upper age limit). For people with a medical condition, Driving Mobility are able to assess physical and cognitive ability which can indicate if a medical condition is impacting on the ability to drive safely.
A typical assessment will include an introduction with specialist centre staff who will ask about your basic medical and driving history, followed by a basic physical assessment. Some centres use a mock-up of a car, designed to measure physical ability, strength and reaction speeds. Paper based tasks that measure cognitive ability, such as memory or attention and visual tests specific to driving may also be used.
Following this, you will be assessed in a vehicle and given the opportunity to try out a variety of adaptations designed to help with starting or returning to driving. Your assessor will then create a comprehensive report that will summarise all their recommendations, including any suggested adaptations or driving tuition with a specially trained driving instructor.
As well as accepting self-referrals for assessment, referrals to a Driving Mobility centre can be made by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Motability Managed Adaptations Programme (MAP) and Health Professionals such as Doctors, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists.