Just because you have mobility needs doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to drive. In fact, passing your driving test will make you much more independent and able to get around more easily.
Here’s a brief guide to answer any questions you may have about learning to drive with a disability.
At what age can a person with a disability learn to drive?
The usual minimum age for learning to drive a car is 17, although if your disability is more severe you may be able to learn at 16. Your local driving school will be able to advise you on this.
Are lessons with an instructor really necessary or can a friend or relative provide them?
Everyone who starts learning to drive should have a course of lessons with a professional driving instructor, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. Well-meaning friends or relatives have not been specially trained to instruct learners which means that you could pick up bad habits and fail your driving test. In addition, the driving school car you learn to drive in will be fitted with special dual controls so that the instructor can apply the brakes for you in an emergency.
Furthermore, experienced driving instructors often attend special courses to help them understand the needs of learners with a disability. A good instructor will teach you other important things as well as how to drive a car. You’ll learn how to get in and out of the car safely and easily. If you use a wheelchair, your instructor will teach you how to get it in and out of the car as well as how to transfer safely.
What about the car?
The car you learn to drive in will have special adaptations to accommodate your disability. There may be hand controls to operate the brake and accelerator, and a steering wheel knob to enable easier control. If applicable, accessories will be available to help you get in and out of the car; hoists, ramps, rotating seats and tail-lifts for example. It’s important that you discuss your needs with the driving school before booking a lesson so that a suitably adapted car can be made available for you.
Is the driving test made easier for people with a disability?
Absolutely not! The driving test you will take is exactly the same as it is for all other drivers.
Before taking your practical test you are required to take a theory test. This test examines your knowledge of the Highway Code and your in-car hazard awareness. The first part of the test is comprised of multiple choice questions, and the second presents you with a series of scenarios in which you must identify and deal with hazards. You must pass both parts of the theory test in one sitting to be awarded the pass certificate.
Theory tests are usually held at driving test centres. These are usually wheelchair accessible and there are other specialist facilities available. If you are not able to get to your local test centre easily, it may be possible for you to take the theory test in your own home or at a different centre.
Remember to let the test centre know at the time you book your test if you need wheelchair access or other special requirements.
You’ll take the same practical test as every other candidate. You’ll need to let the test centre know when you book your test if you have any physical disabilities, deafness or severe hearing impairment.
You may be allowed extra time for your test so that you have ample opportunity to explain to the examiner any adaptations you use, and to give you enough time to get safely in and out of the car. Don’t worry – examiners are specially trained to understand the requirements of drivers with mobility needs and you won’t be penalised in any way if you need extra time!
Being able to drive has many advantages for a person with a disability. You’ll experience a wonderful feeling of freedom as you’ll finally be independent of public transport, and you’ll no longer need to rely on people for lifts whenever you want to go anywhere. Have a chat with your local driving school to see how they can help you learn to drive.
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