Disabled Learner Drivers
If your disability is only minor, it is likely that you can learn to drive in a standard car or one that only requires minor modification, for example:
- a car with automatic transmission
- a steering ball on the steering wheel
- power assisted steering
- left-foot accelerator.
If you have a more severe disability then a range of more complex adaptations may be required, for example:
- joystick steering
- remote control devices
To assess your own specific requirements, and to assess whether you are medically fit to drive, it is advisable to employ the services of a specialist Driving Assessment Centre. These centres will test your ability to drive and give you advice on the type of car modifications you would need to drive safely and in comfort. A list of these centres, with addresses, can be found below.
Most centres offer a free advice service, however a charge will usually be made for the driving assessment. The centre will provide the following information:
- eligibility to apply for a provisional or full driving licence
- possible learning other difficulties whilst learning to drive
- suitable cars and adaptations
- conversion specialists
- local driving instructors registered to teach learners with disabilities.
Car Adaptations - Steering
Power assisted steering - standard in most new cars PAS can be tailor made to suit individual requirements. If you can only use one hand to steer, PAS is a must.
Steering ball - this is fitted to the steering wheel and helps make steering easier.
Joystick System - this can be fitted to a car with automatic transmission if you are unable to turn the steering wheel. This means the car can be steered without having to turn the steering wheel.
Foot steering - can also be used if you have no useful function in your arms, but have full use in both legs.
Car Adaptations - Braking and Accelerating
Foot pedals - if you can't use your right foot, the brake and accelerator pedals can be moved to the left-side on a car with automatic transmission. If you are short, foot pedals can be extended to suit your size.
Knee controls - if the feet are not reliable, but the hip and knee joints are functioning, adaptations can be fitted to allow a driver to operate the accelerator and brake controls with the in and out movement of the thigh.
Hand Controls - if the lower limbs cannot be used to accelerate and brake, then either hand can be used.
Joystick - a four-way joystick can be fitted to a car with automatic transmission , which enables the driver to drive using only one limb. The joystick is placed to the side of the steering wheel, and the driver pushes the stick to the right or left for steering and pushes forward and backwards for the accelerator and brake.
Tiller - this system combines steering, accelerating and braking. The steering wheel is replaced by two handles either side of the steering column, and is steered like a motorcycle. Acceleration is achieved by twisting one of the handles, and braking is achieved by pushing the whole steering unit downwards.
Gear selector - This can be modified to suit a driver's restricted movement, or an electric system of selecting a gear can be fitted anywhere in the vehicle.
Car Adaptations - Secondary Controls
If you have trouble operating indicators, lights, windscreen wipers etc then an infrared or radio-controlled switch panel can be used.
Disability Mobility Centres - Addresses
Belfast Disability Action
Portside Business Park
189 Airport Road
Belfast BT3 9ED
Tel: 02890 297880
Mobility Advice & Vehicle Info Service
Tel: 01344 661000
South Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service
Cardiff CF5 2YN
Tel: 029205 55130
Cornwall Mobility Centre
Royal Cornwall Hospital
Truro TR1 3LJ
Tel: 01872 254921
North Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service
Disability Resources Centre
Glan Clwyd Hospital
Bodelwyddan LL18 5UJ
Tel: 01745 58 48 58
Derby Regional Mobility Centre
Derby DE22 3LZ
Tel: 01332 371929
Scottish Driving Assessment Service
Astley Ainslie Hospital
133 Grange Loan
Tel: 01315 379192
Southampton SO17 2LJ
Tel 023 80512222
Hertfordshire Action on Disability Mobility Centre
The Woodside Centre
Welwyn Garden City
Tel: 01707 324581
Dart Driving Assessement & Advice Centre
Preston Hall Hospital
Aylesford ME20 7NJ
Tel: 01622 795719
Wrightington Mobility Centre
Wigan WN6 9EP
Tel: 01257 256409
Kilverstone Mobility Assessment Centre
2 Napier Place
Norfolk IP24 3RL
Tel: 01842 753029
Bristol Mobility Service of the Disabled Living Centre
The Vassell Centre
Bristol BS16 1QQ
Tel: 0117 965 9353
Queen Elizabeth's Foundation Mobility Centre
Carshalton SM5 4NR
Tel: 020 87701151
Tyne and Wear
North East Drive Mobility
Walkergate Park Centre for Neuro-rehabilitation & Neuro-psychiatry
Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 4QD
Tel: 0191 2875090
Birmingham Regional Driving Assessment Centre
West Heath Hospital
Birmingham B38 8HR
Tel: 0121 6278228
Leeds The William Merritt Disabled Living Centre and Mobility Service
St Mary's Hospital
Green Hill Road
Leeds LS12 3QE
Tel: 01133 055288