Being able to drive is vital lifeline for an enormous number of people and for those who suffer from a disability gaining a driving licence can make an even greater difference. However, the strict rules of motoring make acquiring one harder than it is for the average able-bodied citizen. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean disabled individuals are unable to hold a licence, but additional adjustments may need to be made and protocol followed.
Notifying the DVLA
The first thing anyone who has a disability and wants to drive needs to do is notify the DVLA of their condition. This will likely involve filling out a questionnaire that will determine whether or not your disability will affect your ability to drive to the point of being unsafe. They will then contact your doctor to get additional consultation depending on your condition. If you do not notify the DVLA of a potentially dangerous condition you could be fined up to £1000. Finally, you may be asked to surrender your licence if your doctor says you cannot drive for three months and reapply when you pass the medical requirements.
Driving with a Physical Disability
For those who have a physical disability such as lower body paralysis, dwarfism, missing limbs, or cerebral palsy acquiring a licence isn’t as complicated as many may think. Of course, it’s more time consuming and potentially costlier, but due to the nature of the disability the crucial elements of decision making and anticipation are unaffected. The area that needs to be assessed is control of the vehicle and how this may impact the safety of all motorists.
Typically, with disabilities that do not alter the individual’s ability to control working limbs or fine motor control, special modifications to the vehicle will need to be made to accommodate them. This can involve converting pedals to hand controls or, altering or adding levers and pedals.
For drivers with physical control difficulty – like cerebral palsy – the severity of the condition is significant. After notifying the DVLA and them contacting your GP, they will decide if you can drive. They may issue either full or limited licence if they decide you are capable.
Driving with a Neurological Condition
When trying to acquire a licence with a neurological condition the process can be more complex. Conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, motor neuron disease, and dementia can be sporadic, unexpected, or gradually degenerative.
For epilepsy, the severity is once again a significant factor when it comes to acquiring a driving licence. The frequency of seizures is the scale by which your capability is measured. If you have an attack while awake and lose conciseness you will need to notify the DVLA. Your licence will be revoked but you can reapply if you have had a six-month clear period with no seizures.
For other variable or degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s you will need to be assessed at intervals – often three-year licences – to ensure you can still operate a vehicle safely. This will involve an assessment of your physical control and your ability to make clear and safe decisions on the public road. This could include filling in a questionnaire, a medical examination, and consultation with your GP and the DVLA.