As of March 2022, the NDIS has made some changes to how NDIS participants are able to access funding for mid-cost assistive technology. Vehicle modifications are a form of assistive technology and therefore NDIS approval for certain modifications may also be impacted by these changes.
NDIS participants with a physical disability who wish to drive a car are required to first undertake an occupational therapy driving assessment. The assessment is conducted by a driver-trained occupational therapist, who determines how your disability will impact your ability to perform the task of driving. For those with physical disabilities, using standard vehicle controls such as a steering wheel, gears, indicators, or foot pedals may be difficult. The driver-trained occupational therapist will therefore determine what those difficulties may be, and prescribe engineer compliant vehicle modifications for driving where necessary. It is important to know, that this process is required by Australian licensing authorities and that the OT driving assessment is a medico-legal procedure which protects the driver and other road users by ensuring that drivers meet the legal and medical fitness requirements for licensing. There are many different types of vehicle modifications for driving that can be prescribed based on an individual’s physical needs and capacities. The driver-trained OT will assist each participant with also ensuring that their license receives the correct conditions so that they are permitted to drive with the modifications that have been prescribed.
When it comes to funding driving modifications, the NDIS previously required a very comprehensive application process. This involved the OT submitting a comprehensive report, a Vehicle Modifications funding application, and a quote. This evidence was required to be submitted and processed for approval, which often resulted in long delays of up to 12 months in some cases.
As of March 2022, however, the NDIS has updated the procedure for how to access assistive technology in the mid-cost price range (less than $15,000), which includes many of the driving modifications prescribed by driver-trained OTs. This change means that instead of having to apply for additional funding for mid-cost vehicle modifications, these modifications can now be purchased directly from a participant’s existing NDIS plan, as long as the person has sufficient funding in their AT Capital Supports budget. This is a great step, as it will streamline the process and allow many participants with disabilities to have their vehicles modified in a much shorter timeframe. If the vehicle modifications are more than $15,000 the original application and approvals process still applies.
Although the recent updates are likely to make use of NDIS funding for vehicle modifications a smoother process for many, there are still things we must consider. Firstly, the participant’s vehicle must still meet the NDIS’s operational guidelines for Value for Money in order to proceed with modifications using their existing NDIS AT funding. If the participant’s vehicle does not meet these criteria (ie. it is older than 5 years old OR has more than 80,000kms), the NDIS may still consider funding modifications, but we must provide an application to the NDIS including a vehicle inspection report, and await approval as we did previously. So, participants with older vehicles may still experience delays in securing funding for modifications from the NDIS. The second thing that participants must understand is that even if they have enough funding in their AT budget for vehicle modifications, they are still required to undertake an OT driving assessment as the driver-trained OT is still required to prescribe the correct modifications and ensure your license will be modified appropriately and legally. We are still required to upload clinical evidence that the modifications are reasonable and necessary, which is detailed in an OT driving assessment report. The driver-trained OT will guide each participant through the process according to their individual situation and NDIS Plan.
If you are a participant (or know a participant) who has a physical disability and wants to improve their community access by learning to drive (or return to driving), give us a call on 0431 894 435 and we can discuss this process with you.