Driving with a disability: everything you need to know

Driving with a disability: everything you need to know
Living with a disability can make an impact on things many people take for granted, but that doesn’t have to mean losing out on the freedom of driving.

While technological improvements are making it easier to drive, it’s important to know the full facts about driving with a disability to make sure you stay safe and legal on the roads.

Get up to speed by reading our guide on everything you need to know about driving with disabilities.

Guide contents



Can I drive if I’m disabled?

Probably, although it largely depends on your individual circumstances.

Due to the modifications that can be made to cars to adapt to disabled motorists’ needs, there are plenty of opportunities for people living with disabilities to drive, but it’s essential you inform the DVLA of your condition.

If you’re a new driver living with a disability who’s applying for a provisional licence, you should declare all disabilities and medical conditions on the application form you send to the DVLA or you face a fine of £1,000.

If you’re a qualified driver who has developed a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability, you will also need to inform the DVLA immediately of all changes to your physical condition.

Once you’ve provided the DVLA with this information, they will be able to assess whether or not you comply with the medical standards of fitness to drive and provide you with information of any modifications you need to make to your vehicle.

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How do I learn to drive if I’m disabled?

If you’re unsure about applying for your provisional licence, you can seek help from a ‘driving mobility’ assessment centre, where professionals can provide you with advice on whether you’d meet the medical standards for driving.

If you get a provisional licence, you may be able to find a specially-trained instructor in your local area that has a tuition car modified for disabled drivers, although these adaptations are likely to be fairly basic.

Should you need more specific vehicle modifications, you may have to consider buying your own car that meets your needs. Many instructors will be happy to provide lessons in your own car.

You typically need to be 17 before you can hold a licence to drive a car. However, if you received the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), you can hold a licence from the age of 16.

Is the driving test different for disabled people?

Regardless of the severity of your disability, you will still need to take the same theory and practical driving test if you want to become a qualified driver, although some considerations can be made for your condition in both parts.

When booking your practical or theory test, inform the centre if you think you’ll need any special provision. This could include extra time to allow the examiner to talk you through any modifications or extra information you may require.

You will be able to take the practical test in a car that meets your needs, whether manual, automatic or specially modified. The examiner will record any restriction codes, which will then appear on your driving licence.

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Can I keep my licence if I become disabled?

If you’re returning to driving following illness or injury that has left you with a disability or physical impairment, it’s likely you’ll need to inform the DVLA of your condition, although your doctor should be able to advise if you’re unsure.

The DVLA will assess your condition and decide whether you need a new or shorter licence, a modified car, or if you need to give up your licence completely for a designated period of time.

You should also inform the DVLA if you’re diagnosed with a ‘notifiable’ medical condition such as diabetes, epilepsy or glaucoma, which could affect your ability to drive.

Should I buy a different car if I’m disabled?

The type of car you should drive will largely depend on the type of car you are qualified to drive from the restriction codes on your licence.

For example, if you passed in an automatic then you will need to drive an automatic – you won’t be qualified to drive a manual. Similarly, if you passed in a modified car you’ll need to drive a vehicle with the same modifications.

Modified cars can help make several aspects of driving easier for motorists, including use of the foot pedals, steering wheel, gear stick/handbrake and even other controls like indicators, headlights, and windscreen washers.

For those who struggle to operate foot pedals, modifications are available to provide hand controls, while other adaptations can also be implemented for more serious disabilities.

Can I drive with a mental illness?

If you’re living with a mental health problem that could impact upon your driving, you need to inform the DVLA so they can assess if you’re safe to continue driving, or whether you should give up driving for a period of time.

These conditions include psychosis, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia.

On the advice of your GP, you may also need to inform the DVLA if you have any mental health problems that affect your ability to drive, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Can I drive with a learning disability?

Learning disabilities which affect the way an individual learns new things throughout their life, can seriously impact on your ability to drive and you need to inform the DVLA of your condition or face a fine of up to £1,000.

If you’re living with a learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, you don’t need to inform the DVLA – although you may wish to inform your theory test centre if you require additional help or time to take the test.

What’s a Blue Badge permit?

If you’re living with a disability or health condition that impacts on your mobility, you might be eligible for a Blue Badge permit, which will allow you to park closer to your destination, whether you’re the driver or the passenger.

When correctly displayed in your vehicle, a Blue Badge permit lets you park in demarcated on-street parking bays – but be aware that off-street car parks such as those in supermarkets and hospitals are often governed by different rules.

Can I drive abroad if I’m disabled?

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t have any problems driving abroad if you’re disabled, although it’s always important to research the country you’re visiting beforehand to keep up-to-date with any requirements you may need.

If you’re driving in France, for example, a disabled badge will often allow you to park your vehicle in a designated space and sometimes for free, even if the space is in a fee-paying area.

Before travelling abroad, you should always ensure you have breakdown cover for the entirety of your journey and that you’re covered by your insurance for the length of your stay out of the country.

Does being disabled affect my car tax?

You can apply for an exemption from paying car tax if you receive the higher rate mobility component of DLA or the enhanced rate mobility component of PIP.

The exempt vehicle must be registered in your name or your nominated driver’s name and be used only for your personal needs. You can only register for one vehicle tax exemption at any one time.

If you receive the standard rate mobility component of PIP you can get a 50% reduction in vehicle tax. You can’t get a car tax reduction if you receive the lower rate mobility component of DLA.

Does being disabled affect my car insurance?

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 made it illegal for any insurers to refuse cover for a disabled person on grounds of their disability, or charge more for an insurance policy on grounds of their disability.

When getting a quote, you may need to speak directly to the providers to ensure your premium would cover your specific needs, such what kind of courtesy car you would need, or any named drivers you require on your policy.

If you’re unsure whether your current cover meets your specific needs, contact your provider and speak to a representative. Failing to tell your provider of any disability or medical condition could see you invalidate your cover.

What other transport options are there for disabled people?

If you don’t feel confident driving with a disability or simply prefer to use public transport in your day-to-day life, there are plenty of options in the UK for people living with disabilities.

In addition to getting a bus pass for free travel, many buses are modified to provide access for wheelchairs, while Network Rail also offers reduced fares for disabled travellers.

For shorter journeys, or if public transport connections aren’t available, you may prefer a mobility scooter or an electric bike, both of which can significantly enhance your transport options.

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