Learning to drive with a disability

Lesson Type
Last updated: 10 Jul 2020

If you have a disability or health condition, learning to drive can seem like a far off goal to achieve, but it doesn’t have to be. Learning to drive with a disability might bring more challenges, but it’s not impossible. Here, we look at what steps you’ll need to take when learning to drive with a disability or health condition, and at how learning to drive could be hugely beneficial to your sense of independence.

Can I learn to drive with a disability?

Whether or not you can learn to drive depends upon how severe and what your disability is. Before you get on the road, you will need to inform the DVLA of any pre-existing disabilities of medical conditions you have, so that they can assess how your disability could affect your driving.

Disability Living Allowance – learning to drive at 16

If you receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance, you can start learning to drive in the UK at the age of 16. In order to get the ball rolling on learning to drive with a disability, you will need to apply for a provisional driving licence, making sure you give details of your medical condition. You can do this online or by collecting a D1 form from the Post Office.

Once you’ve sent this off to the DVLA, they will liaise with a medical adviser to assess how your medical condition might affect your ability to drive. They will then be able to issue you with a provisional driving licence if your disability does not affect your ability to drive safely.

Find a driving instructor

Once you’ve received your provisional driving licence, you’ll want some driving lessons. Learning to drive with a disability can present more challenges, so it might be a good idea to search for a driving instructor with experience in teaching learner drivers with a disability or health condition.

Adapted vehicles

If your medical condition requires you to have a specially adapted car, you might need to buy an adapted car before you can get on the road. You will be able to find out more about this by visiting your local mobility centre, where you can take a driving assessment. The driving assessment will involve an interview with a clinician or a driving instructor as well as a physical assessment, if necessary.

The physical assessment aims to look at what adaptations, if any, your vehicle will need. The centre may also be able to help you to find a driving instructor in your area who drives an adapted vehicle.

Buying your adapted vehicle

If you’re receiving the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance, you might be eligible to join a car leasing scheme. The scheme from Motability, for example, allows you to exchange your mobility allowance in order to lease a new car.

To find out more about leasing a car and to find out whether you’re eligible for the scheme, visit Motability.co.uk.

Driving with autism

Having autism doesn’t automatically mean that you’re unable to drive. As autism is a spectrum disorder, it’s impossible to say whether you should or shouldn’t drive because you have autism. You will, however, need to disclose your autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when you apply for your provisional driving licence.

Once you’ve done this, the DVLA will assess your case individually, before deciding whether or not you will be able to learn to drive. The National Autistic Society explain that, ‘barriers to holding a licence might include a history of epilepsy, perceptual problems, difficulties with multi-tasking, poor motor control or dyspraxia and problems with sequencing. These should not be an absolute barrier to gaining a licence but you will need to be aware that they may present difficulties.’

Although you may have more challenges to overcome when learning to drive with autism, getting your driving licence is definitely achievable. In fact, the UK’s most highly qualified driving instructor, Julia Malkin – who herself has Asperger syndrome – has set up her own driving school in order to help driving instructors gain the skills they need to teach autistic learner drivers.

Gaining independence

If you’re considering learning to drive with a disability, it’s not just the practicalities of life which having a driving licence can really help with. Being able to drive offers independence and allows you to get out and to do your own thing without having to rely on public transport or lifts from friends and family.

You might think that learning to drive just isn’t possible, but vehicle adaptations and driver training techniques have come a long way. With a driving instructor who has experience in teaching those with disabilities to drive, you could be on the road before you know it!