When driving with disability for the first time there are many considerations that need to be ticked off beforehand… From getting appropriate driving lessons and gaining a special driver licence, to vehicle modifications, funding options and more.
These decisions may be daunting, but keep in mind there are a range of experts trained to help make the process easy. Break it down into achievable steps and you’ll soon (ok, eventually) be hitting the road to independence.
Other considerations include whether you’re learning to drive for the first time or changing the conditions on your licence due to an acquired disability. Or you may have upgraded your vehicle modifications.
We cover all this and more in this article.
Driver trained occupational therapist
When learning about driving with a disability, you’ll need to work with a specialist driver trained occupational therapist (DTOT). A DTOT is trained to assess your fitness to drive and help you decide which modifications are needed to make this possible.
Your DTOT will guide you through the necessary steps to getting your driving licence and give you insights into funding options that may be available. Some of the aspects of their support include:
1. Occupational therapy driving assessments
Perform off-road and practical on-road assessments to gather knowledge about what you need to drive safely. Off-road assessments can include an evaluation of physical fitness, vision requirements and/or cognitive state.
2. Vehicle modifications
The most important step towards driving with disability is choosing the most suitable controls and modifications to suit your physical requirements. Your DTOT can work together with your vehicle converter to develop the best possible driving situation for your unique circumstances. And, at some point down the road, your DTOT can assess whether your controls need to be upgraded to be more effective or ergonomic.
Read why you’ll need to ensure car modifications are compliant with Australian Design Rules before getting your modified vehicle registration.
A DTOT can also work with you to help you re-learn to drive after an acquired injury or illness. Off-road and on-road learning will be essential for this to happen.
Your DTOT will be able to guide you through which funding bodies offer financial assistance for each step of the way. In addition, a DTOT may also be able to help you with funding applications.
This isn’t an exhaustive list and there are many working DTOTs across Australia who have experience in different areas. So do a good amount of research to find someone you’re happy working with and communicating with on an ongoing basis.
Make a list of DTOTs in your area to phone, to see how well you get along and how they can help you. It’s important to feel comfortable with them when discussing your strengths and challenges.
Driving with disability as a new or experienced driver
If you’re learning to drive for the first time you might not know what to expect. Not to worry as your DTOT will guide you through a range of recommendations. If you’re already a driver, have a conversation about new technology and modifications that are available to suit any changed circumstances you’re facing.
Upgrading your vehicle modifications means learning to use new technology and may require redoing your licence test. But it’s all worth it – the benefits of having the road as your domain can make an enormous difference to your wellbeing.
Learning to drive with disability
While guiding you through the process, your DTOT will source a specialist driving instructor with expertise in teaching drivers with disability.
There are many types of vehicle conversions and modifications, so finding an instructor with suitable conversions is important. Some specialist driving instructors have a large range of vehicle modifications to try out before settling on any.
Whether you’re a new driver or learning to use upgraded controls, learning to drive (or drive in a new way) is nerve-wracking at the best of times. In addition to your driving instructor having suitable vehicle modifications, it’s important to find someone you’re comfortable learning handling skills from.
Fitness to drive with a disability
Before you can begin your driving lessons, you’ll need to get a learner’s permit. Speak to your DTOT about the best way to go about this. As mentioned earlier, they’ll assess which vehicle modifications are best suited then familiarise you with what they do and how they work.
Once your DTOT has fully assessed your driving requirements they’ll provide you with a comprehensive report. This includes the following:
- Driving ability assessment
- Vehicle modifications/controls recommendation
- Required number of driving lessons to be completed
- Quotes for converted car and vehicle modifications
This report will be helpful to access funding for your disability converted car. You’ll also need to present it to the roads and traffic authority in your state/territory when applying for a licence.
Getting a licence for driving with disability
The national rules and requirements of getting a drivers licence with a physical disability vary from state to territory.
Find out what the conditions are where you live:
Your licence will carry specific conditions to go with the vehicle and modifications you use.
Vehicle conversions for driving with disability
Your DTOT has helped you this far and will also assist you with decisions around buying a specialised vehicle, along with your car converter.
There are a range of vehicle modifications to make driving achievable and as physically comfortable as possible, from voice control to swivel seats and much more. It’s always good to keep your eye on what’s available, as your needs might change.
Technology changes also, and newly introduced modifications might give you an improved driving experience.
Also, be sure to read the Blue Badge Insurance A-Z Guide on Disability Converted Cars and other articles that explain more about converted cars:
- Buying a converted car
- Safety when adding car modifications
- Driving controls for people with disability
- The value of a disability converted car
- The difference between wheelchair accessible vehicles and converted cars
Disability parking permit access
A disability parking permit ensures you have access to suitable parking bays, so make sure you get one. Here are some helpful resources about disability parking permits:
- How to get a disability parking permit
- What you should know about your disability parking permit
- Disability parking myths
Perhaps you also want to buy a disability parking permit bumper sticker for your car? It’ll reinforce to other drivers that you have every right to use accessible parking.
Disability car insurance for driving with disability
When comparing disability car insurance, know that at Blue Badge Insurance we don’t discriminate against anyone with a car that differs from the ‘usual’. As a specialist disability insurance provider, our car insurance is designed to be affordable. Plus, we offer up to 25% car insurance for people who have a disability permit for parking!
An important extra we provide customers is insurance documents that clearly separate the insurance premium for conversions from the insurance premium for the vehicle, to allow costs to be claimed back from your funding body. Why not get a quote online now or call us for a quote on 1300 304 802.