A Guide to Driving Lessons For Disabled Persons

Having a physical disability, hearing difficulties or special educational needs does not preclude you from learning to drive. At Brookmiller, we carry out many different adaptations to vehicles tailored to individual needs that open up new possibilities for people with a driving licence.

Being able to drive can be an important avenue to personal freedom for people with a disability. Have you ever wondered where you can access driving lessons and whether you can get help with the cost of learning to drive?

If you’re not sure whether you would meet the medical standards required for a driving licence, you can get help and professional advice from a local driving mobility assessment centre.

Although you usually need to be 17 before you can get a provisional driving licence, take driving lessons and learn to drive, if you receive the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you can drive at 16.

Who should I notify about my condition?

When you apply for your provisional licence from the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority), you must be open and honest and declare your disabilities and conditions in full. Your situation will be assessed and a decision made on whether or not you comply with medical standards.

It’s a straightforward process that you can complete online, providing all the information required, including proof of identity. The DVLA will assess your application and advise on the outcome. If you do not agree with their decision, you have the right to appeal.

You can check for more detailed advice on what you need to declare to the driver and vehicle agency.

Can I get help with the cost of driving lessons?

There are grants available through the Motability scheme to help with the cost of driving lessons and learning to drive.

You have to be a Motability Scheme customer, have a lease agreement or pending order on the Motability Scheme for a Motability scheme car or vehicle and have secured your provisional licence. You must also receive a means-tested benefit such as the Disability Living Allowance.

You may also be eligible for grant assistance if you are already a qualified driver and want lessons to familiarise yourself with new driving controls in your Motability vehicle.

A grant may cover up to 40 hours of driving lessons

If you have a pending order for a Motability vehicle and have not yet passed your test, subject to other considerations you may qualify for a grant to cover up to 40 hours of driving lessons.

This includes a two-hour trial lesson followed by 12 hours of driving tuition, during which you must pass your DVSA Driving Theory Test. You will then qualify for a further 26 hours of driving tuition.

All lessons must be completed within twelve months.

More detailed information on grants for driving lessons is available from the Motability Foundation.

What about if I’m a carer?

Sometimes, the designated driver of a Motability car may be a relative or carer. There are disability grants for carers of disabled people. More information is available at  https://www.disability-grants.org/grants-for-families-support.html

Finding specialist driving instructors

Once you have secured your provisional licence, it is a good idea to find a specialist instructor who has experience in providing driving tuition for people with disabilities. This is not a legal requirement but may help to make the process easier for you and more tailored to your needs.

Most drivers with a physical disability choose to learn to drive in an automatic. The tuition car may also have some limited modifications for disabled drivers. Alternatively, you may opt to learn to drive in your Mobility vehicle or privately owned vehicle adapted specifically to meet your needs. Specialist disability driving instructors will be happy to provide lessons using your vehicle.

Instructors receive specialist training

An experienced instructor will have undergone specialised training and will also be able to advise you on other issues associated with driving, such as how to access and exit your vehicle more easily.

Information on driving assessments and driving tuition can be found on the Driving Mobility website.

The AA driving school also offers disabled driving lessons, using specialist instructors, adapted cars and lessons tailored to individual requirements.

Wherever you live, the Disability Driving Instructors website is a great source of information.

The theory test

The driving theory test is the same for people with physical disabilities as it is for everyone else, although there are some considerations for specific disabilities, such as allowing extra time. Mention your specific needs when you book your test.

Only book your theory test when you have studied the Highway Code and have developed in-car hazard awareness. You must pass your theory test before you can book your practical test. Remember that if you have a Mobility Foundation grant for your driving lessons, the entire process must be completed within 12 months.

An accessible theory test for all

Theory test centres are usually wheelchair accessible and provide facilities for people with disabilities. For those unable to access a test centre, it may be possible to arrange to take the test at home. The test itself is designed to be accessible, and available in written and spoken formats.

You can book your theory test online or contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for more help on 0300 200 1122.

Drivers in Northern Ireland book through www.nidirect.gov.uk

Taking and booking your practical driving test

Just like the theory test, you will take the same practical test as all other candidates. However, when you have a disability you may be allowed extra time to cover any adaptations with the examiner and to get in and out of the car. The examiner will have received special training and will understand your special needs.

Practical driving tests can be booked online. Remember to let the DVLA know if you have any special requirements. If in doubt you can make your booking over the phone with the DVSA driving test booking centre on 0300 200 1122.

You can take the practical test either in your driving instructor’s car or in your own specially modified vehicle.

Drivers in Northern Ireland book through www.nidirect.gov.uk

Where can I park?

You may be eligible for the Blue Badge Scheme, which enables people with mobility problems to park their cars closer to where they need to be. There are almost always dedicated Disabled spaces in public car parks.

You can check your eligibility and apply (or reapply) for a Blue Badge online. If you are in Northern Ireland book here. They are usually valid for three years.

Conclusion

Learning to drive could increase your options, enhance your freedom and open up new horizons. How about taking a look at the types of vehicles, wheelchair accessible vehicles and adaptations available through Brook Miller and look at what’s involved in applying for the Motability Scheme?

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