Comprehensive advice and information for driving, learning to drive, or returning to driving with a disability
Having a medical condition or disability does not necessarily mean you cannot or will not be allowed to drive. Whether you are a new or an experienced driver, you must let the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) know about any medical condition or disability that may affect your driving.
The usual minimum age for driving cars is 17, but if you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance, you can drive at 16.
The availability of public transport that is accessible to anyone with a disability varies greatly from town to town and sometimes from county to county. Only the ability to drive a vehicle can make unlimited freedom of travel possible for a disabled person.
For most people driving has become essential to the tasks of everyday living, commuting to work, running errands, or taking children to school. It has become synonymous with freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency. The ability to travel where and when we want affords us the opportunity of employment, attend social activities, and to become involved in mainstream life.
For most able bodied drivers, driving a motor vehicle on the UK road network can be frustrating at times. For a person with a physical disability, driving to the local shops can be difficult and sometimes daunting. However, many people with physical disabilities can safely drive using some of the many adaptive devices available today. Some of these devices are often found in vehicles that are used by people with and without physical disabilities.
Over the past few years, there have been many advances made in the area of adaptive driving equipment for people with disabilities. It is now possible for severely disabled individuals to operate a motor vehicle without leaving their wheelchair. Such advances as reduced effort steering systems for people with limited strength in their arms and head operated switches to activate headlight, horn, and other accessory controls for people with limited hand function are now readily available.
It is true however, that many people underestimate or do not realise the complexity of the driving task. It involves more than the physical ability to operate controls. It requires adequate vision and the mental skills to process what we see in a manner quick enough to ensure safe efficient decisions are made by the driver.
It is for this reason that RoadDriver recommends that an individual with a physical disability, seek the assistance of a driver assessment specialist. This is an individual who specialises in the field of driver evaluation and education for anyone with disabilities. The evaluation process usually includes tests of physical function, visual skills, reaction time, and mental skills as well as driving performance tests.
Based on the results of these evaluations, the driver assessment and rehabilitation specialist will decide what if any adaptive driving equipment you may need, whether you have the potential to drive independently and whether you need further driver training.
The range of adaptations that can be made to a car is extremely wide and there are very few people who are unable to drive as a result of physical disability. However, you should approach buying adaptive equipment in the same way you would approach buying a new car. By making competitive comparisons, reviewing the functional options, and seeing demonstrations.
There are many dealers and manufacturers of adaptive vehicle equipment. Most have online catalogues that can provide useful descriptions, photos, and prices. The final selection should be made after a competitive price comparison, review of functional options, a demonstration, test drive, and suitability determination to ensure that the selected adaptive equipment safely meets your needs.
For free advice and assistance RoadDriver recommends you visit the Forum of Mobility Centres.
What is the Forum of Mobility Centres?
They are a network of 17 independent organisations covering England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, who offer professional, high quality information, advice, and assessment to individuals who have a medical condition or are recovering from an accident or injury which may affect their ability to drive, access or leave a motor vehicle.
You can attend whichever centre is the most convenient for you. All Centres offer advice and assessment to people who wish to begin, or return to driving following an illness, injury, or accident. They also offer advice about getting in and out of a vehicle and with regard to loading and transporting a wheelchair or a scooter in a motor vehicle. Some Centre's also offer assessment and advice with regard to wheelchair or scooter selection. Generally, advice is confined to cars rather than motorcycles or heavy goods vehicles.
Although independent, the Centres are recognised by other mobility organisations including Motability and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
They also offer advice and assessment to:
Older people or people with a medical condition that impacts upon their ability to make appropriate decisions about safe driving. People with a disability who think they may need special modifications to a motor vehicle in order to be able to control it safely. Carers who need to transport individuals with restricted mobility in a motor vehicle
In addition they offer assessment and advice on:
Adaptations to overcome physical problems with vehicle control with regard to your ability to drive safely a wheelchair or scooter, also loading and transportation of the same safely. Some centres offer wheelchair selection advice and some give advice on passenger and driver access to vehicles and motorcycles or heavy goods vehicles.
For further information on these latter type of assessments contact your local Centre or call their free phone number 0800 559 3636.
Click the link below to find your local centre
Assessment centres that are not members of the above forum
England: South West
17 Barn Owl Close
Tel: 01803 616661
Mid Staffordshire Driving Assessment Service:
Cannock Chase Hospital
Tel: 01543 576416
Fax: 01543 576401
Mobility Information Service:
20 Burton Close
Tel: 01743 340269
England: North West
Clatterbridge Assessment Centre:
Wirral Limb Centre
Tel: 0151 482 7812
Fax: 0151 482 7813
To show our commitment to disabled drivers and to recognise that disability is such an important driving topic, RoadDriver has listed these sites separately from our links page.
An excellent website bringing together all the information that disabled people need in order to make informed decisions and choices. If you want to find out more detailed information about specific issues, the website also features direct links to the websites of other organisations.
Mobilise is a UK charity that promotes mobility for disabled people. They represent the interests of disabled drivers, passengers, scooter and wheelchair users, as well as their friends, families and carers.
The Disabled Motorists' Federation:
Useful website for disabled motorists
A national charity that researches products and services for ease of use by older and disabled people. It publishes free consumer reports on central heating controls, community alarms, digital TV, driving/car adaption's, technology at home, wheelchairs, and a guide to using wheelchairs on public transport.
Tel: 0870 6000 301
At a glance guide to the current medical standards of fitness to drive http://www.dvla.gov.uk/medical/ataglance.aspx
(For general enquiries about the car scheme)
City Gate House
22 Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HB
Tel: 0845 456 4566
(for oversight of the scheme)
Telephone: 01279 635999 (8.45am till 5.15pm Monday to Friday)
Fax: 01279 632000
Minicom (textphone): 01279 632213
Motability Car Scheme:
City Gate House
22 Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HB
Telephone 0845 456 4566 (Minicom 0845 675 0009)
(Lines are open 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday)
Motability Wheelchair and Scooter Scheme:
Telephone 0845 607 6260 (Minicom 01264 384 482)
Lines are open 8.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Thursday, 8.00am to 5.00pm Friday
National Association for bikers with a disability (NABD)
Tel / Fax: 0161 2330122
RADAR is the UK's leading pan-disability charity working to represent the need and expectations of over 10.8 million disabled people in the UK. RADAR plays a key role at the heart of the disability movement, acting with independence to clarify and channel the needs and expectations of disabled people and organisations to Westminster and Whitehall.
Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)
A national charity that provides free, impartial advice about all types of disability aids for adults with disabilities and disabled children, older people, their carers and families.
Blue Badge Scheme:
The Blue Badge scheme provides a range of parking concessions for people with severe mobility problems who have difficulty using public transport. The scheme operates throughout the UK. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/MotoringAndTransport/DG_4001061
Blue Badge Network:
198 Wolverhampton Street
Tel/Fax: 01384 257001
Blue Badge Map:
Use Directgov's interactive Blue Badge map online to find Blue Badge parking bays, local council parking rules, accessible public toilets, train stations, shopmobility centres, accessible beaches and much more near you and across the UK.
Medical conditions and disabilities that may affect you're driving
Information on disabled peoples rights
Information on motoring and transport for disabled people http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/MotoringAndTransport/index.htm
Disability Living Allowance:
Disability and Carers Service
Telephone 0845 712 33456
Disability and Carers Service:
Telephone 028 9090 6182
War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement:
Service Personnel and Veterans Agency
Telephone 0800 169 2277
A national registered charity with the principal aim of relieving the poverty and improving the living standards of disabled people. Their aim is to break the link between poverty and disability.
Mencap is the voice of learning disability. Everything they do is about valuing and supporting people with a learning disability and their families and carers.
Driving, learning to drive, or returning to driving with a disability
Tips and Advice Article No 71 RoadDriver 2010
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