In the occupational therapy world, we like to think of disability as more of a speed bump than anything else. Individuals with disabilities can often feel like their options are limited – that the only way they can do things is with the help of someone else. And although this may be true for certain activities, driving is often not one of them.
Driving a car is a great privilege, and allows us freedom to access the community when and where we like and need. It is important to recognise that there are a set of standards that one has to meet in order to hold a license, and this is because driving a car is extremely risky and dangerous. Some people who have been lucky enough not to have been in an accident do not understand the risk associated with driving, but if you or a family member has been in a crash, this risk might feel more real to you. And that’s a good thing.
When someone has a disability, it means they have a permanent change in the functioning of their physiology in some way, when compared to a typically functioning person. These changes affect people in all different ways, but can mean that life needs to be adapted a little bit. Driving is no different! Through engineering and technology that is constantly changing, we can adapt the task of driving too! There are many car modifications for disability that a person can learn to use, and often we can find a solution that fits a person’s unique needs just perfectly.
There are, however, a few things you need to know about driving with a disability. You are still required to meet standards set forth by your local transport authority, and any modifications you use MUST be prescribed by a driver-trained occupational therapist, and endorsed on your license. You also have to complete a driver assessment to demonstrate your competence with the use of modifications.
The process you need to go through to start driving with a disability has a few different steps involved. Have a look at the flow-chart below to get an idea of these steps:
Please note, this process refers to individuals who have previously driven. If you are a new driver, you will have to declare your medical condition/disability when you go to complete your knowledge test. If you obtain your learner’s permit in NSW, you must then take the RMS ‘Fitness to Drive Medical Assessment’ Form back to your doctor, then complete your OT driving assessment. If you are in Queensland, you must declare your condition and provide your medical certificate (Form F3712) when you obtain your learner’s permit.
The key is, many people with disabilities can drive their entire lives using modifications that change the car to suit their needs. Furthermore, with the NDIS in place, much of this process can be funded and can therefore facilitate your driving if you meet the eligibility requirements held by the NDIS.
Although this process can seem daunting at a first look, we are here to help guide you and ensure that everything is done properly and legally. CTP insurance providers are very particular about disclosure, and require that you comply with the rules of the transport authority regarding driving with a medical condition. We are here to answer questions and assist you through this process, to ultimately give you the freedom to live your life wherever, and whenever you want!