When I was younger, like many young girls—I thought I could travel the world by horse and I was adamant that I was not going to learn to drive because cars terrified me. The opinion of my younger self was that they should be destroyed and we should revert back to horse and carriage.
Then I grew up. I realised that if I needed to go somewhere, public transport was a nightmare. I couldn’t balance on busses, no one gives you the priority seats and the drivers don’t wait for you to sit down. And I knew there was no chance that the horse and carriage would overtake cars so I had to learn how to drive and I am glad I did.
A lot of people think of a disabled person in a wheelchair, with a walking stick, a guide dog but not many people wonder about adapted driving and disabled people driving.
Today, I am going to discuss the process of getting the licence if you have a disability and having an assessment so that you can buy a car.
Applying for a licence
If you are disabled and live in the UK, you can learn to drive at the age of 16. At first glance, this sounds great, you have a bit of a bragging moment to your able-bodied friends (in jest of course), letting them know you’ll be on the road before them. But in reality, it is not that simple or at least it wasn’t in my experience. I personally think it is this age because it is so complicated to get your provisional licence that it will probably take a year for you to receive it in the first place.
As I am sure you are aware, you need a specific licence, known as a provisional licence, to learn to drive. If you are a disabled person who needs adaptations, this can be a nuisance depending on whether you were born disabled or became disabled later in life.
If you became disabled later in life but already knew how to drive, then you can easily visit your closest centre and get an assessment for adaptations.
If you were born disabled or if you became disabled and did not know how to drive beforehand, the process is more complicated.
To get your licence, you need to know what adaptations you need for your car, to get an assessments to see what adaptations you need, you need a licence. A circular loop with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Regional Driving Assessment centre (RDAC). DVLA would say they cannot give me a licence without an assessment, the RDAC would say that they cannot assess me without at least a provisional licence.
Finally, after weeks of this debate, one woman on the phone told us to guess what adaptations will be needed by my limitations. And that worked! I think we originally put too many on than was probably necessary, but better to be safe than sorry, right?
I do feel that this needs to be changed and become more clearer for people. Maybe a new disabled driver could be issued with a disabled provisional licence. That is, they don’t have to guess the adaptations.
All adaptions are originally on there by default. They go to the assessment centre, see what they really need and when they finally pass their test, they are given the the codes they specifically need for their adaptations for their full UK driving licence.
However, I don’t see that happening anytime soon so if you are a sixteen-year-old disabled individual or you have never learned how to drive before but do have a disability and are stuck in this loop of needing a licence but not being able to get one, fear not!
Just have a guess. You know your disability, you’ve lived with it so you know what your limits are and will know what adaptations sound useful. Send your guess to DVLA and then book your appointment at RDAC once it arrives.
It is a long process, but it is also an awarding one.
How to Start the Process
You can start the process three months before that big sixteenth birthday of yours or anytime after that. To do this, you need to fill in a form called the D1 which you can fill in and send by post or you can complete online on the Gov.uk website. It will cost you £34 for an online application and £43 by post.
Once you have completed the form and sent or submitted it, the DVLA will send you a form asking you about your disability, known as the medical-in-confidence form. They will also ask for your permission to contact your GP in order to get their opinion on your condition and whether they think you are able to drive safely.
In most cases this will be a yes. However, if you have a condition that can arise suddenly and leave you without control of the car, such as epilepsy or any other conditions associated with seizures, then the answer is most likely going to be a no. The same is said about not being able to see as far as 20 meters.
As said previously, the form that the DVLA sends you is going to ask you about adaptations. If you find that you are going through a loop with the DVLA and RDAC as I had, take the advice of the member of staff I spoke to on the phone and have a guess.
Once you send the medical-in-confidence form and your GP gives the all clear, you wait for a licence to be sent to you. Then you make an appointment at the RDAC to see what adaptions you really do need.
The process may be slightly different if you have a valid licence.
Having an Assessment and Buying a Car
First, you need to know your nearest centre, which can be found by going onto the RDAC official website.
You then book at your nearest centre and will be assessed on various aspects. These include your ability:
- to read a numberplate 20 meters away
- to get in and out of the car safely
- to turn on the ignition
- to use the steering wheel
- to use the accelerator, clutch and break.
After the assessment, they will tell you what adaptations you need and you pass the information on to your car dealer.
You can choose your car dealer by looking at the Motability Car guide. Your choices may be limited by whether you need a semi-automatic or automatic car but shouldn’t be if you are able to drive a manual.
Even if the guide says a car is full automatic do check with the dealer to see if it is single clutch or double clutch. I leased a car advertised as a full automatic, meaning it should be double clutch and not require the use of a handbrake on a hill, but it was single clutch. This meant it was actually a semi-automatic and was not actually suitable for me. Motability did help me return the car though.
Once you have chosen your car, the car dealer will tell you whether you have to pay an advance and also when you can expect your car.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful.
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