Driving with Disability: What to Know

Your key questions, answered.

We’ve got all the key information needed If you, or someone you care about, is thinking of driving with a disability.

In this article, we’ll take you through all the ins and outs of disabled driving, from driving licences to tax exemptions and blue badges. 

Read on to find out more.

Can you drive a car if you are disabled? 

In many cases, yes. 

But the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVLA) must be informed about any medical impairment you currently have (or have had) that could impact your ability to drive. Such impairments or conditions are termed ‘notifiable’.

These include things like: 

  • Mental health problems 
  • Diabetes 
  • Epilepsy
  • Physical disabilities 
  • Neurological conditions, including strokes
  • Visual impairments

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are several exemptions, depending on the exact nature of the condition or the disability. So it’s worth checking if your condition needs to be reported using the GOV.UK online tool

What medical conditions can prevent you from driving?

There are some circumstances where a medical condition or disability means you’ll need to stop driving and surrender your licence to the DVLA. 

These include: 

  • Your condition means that you aren’t able to pass the required standards for driving. 
  • You’ve been told by your doctor to stop driving for 3 months or more.
  • Your condition lasts for 3 months or more and impacts your ability to drive safely. 

However, surrendering your driving licence is not necessarily permanent — if you can meet the medical standards for driving in the future, you could get back behind the wheel.  

Do I only need to tell the DVLA about new conditions?

Even if the DVLA has said that you can drive with an existing condition or disability, if your condition has deteriorated, you’ll need to notify the DVLA. 

Can I drive with PIP?

If you receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP (Personal Independence Payment), or you’ve applied for it, you can actually start driving at 16 years old, instead of the usual age of 17 years old.  

The conditions for getting your first provisional driving licence are the same as if you weren’t in receipt of PIP. 

You must be: 

  • Aged 15 years and 9 months or older
  • Have been given permission to live in Scotland, England or Wales for 185 days or more 
  • Be able to read a number plate from at least 20 metres away. 

Do I need to pass a different driving test if I’m disabled?

The standards needed to pass both the theory and practical parts of the driving test are the same — whether the driver has a disability or not. However, adjustments can be made, depending on the nature of your disability or medical condition. 

For example: 

  • If you have a hearing impairment or are deaf, written notes and hand signals can be used instead of verbal instructions and directions. 
  • If you struggle to read out loud, you can write down the number plate during the eyesight check, rather than having to say it verbally. 
  • If you have learning difficulties, you could be offered the chance to follow traffic light signals instead of having to follow instructions from a sat nav.

You’ll also be able to use a car that has special adaptations for your needs when taking your practical test. It’s important that you let your driving test centre know of any particular provisions you think you’ll need beforehand. 

Do I need a special vehicle if I’m disabled?

Once you’ve successfully passed your driving test, the restriction codes on your driving licence will state which type of vehicles you’re allowed to drive. 

For example, you might have passed your driving test with a modified clutch, in which case, you’ll need to use a vehicle with the same modification when driving in the future. This is also the case if you passed your test using an automatic vehicle — you’ll be restricted to only driving automatic vehicles with your driving licence.

Will driving whilst disabled affect my car insurance?

The Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 means that car insurers can’t charge higher premiums or refuse to cover you based on your disability. 

The options for the level of cover available are the same as for non-disabled drivers. 

Those are: 

  • Third-party 
  • Third-party, fire and theft 
  • Fully comprehensive

However, depending on the modifications your vehicle might have, you might need to take out a policy with extra cover, for example, for wheelchair lifts or ramps. 

You might actually find that your car insurance premium comes out a little cheaper if you’re a blue badge holder, as you’re more likely to be able to park your vehicle in more secure locations.   

Will driving whilst disabled affect my car tax?

If you’re disabled, you may be entitled to a reduction or exemption to vehicle tax. 

Those who are in receipt of the PIP standard rate mobility component or the ADP standard rate mobility component (Scotland) can be eligible for a 50% reduction on their vehicle tax. Although it’s worth noting that this reduction in tax payment does not apply to those getting the DLA lower rate mobility component. 

Some disabled drivers are exempt from paying vehicle tax. 

These include those who receive: 

  • The higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). 
  • The enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). 
  • Enhanced rate mobility component of Adult Disability Payment (ADP). 

There are other categories for exemption, too, including those who receive the Armed Forces Independence Payment, so it’s worth checking out the full list on GOV.UK. 

Do I need to pay VAT on my vehicle?

In the UK, certain vehicles that are adapted for wheelchair and stretcher users (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles) are exempt from Value Added Tax (VAT). 

According to GOV.UK, you’ll need to make sure the vehicle is: “designed or substantially and permanently adapted to enable the disabled wheelchair user or stretcher user to travel in it” and “the adaptation is necessary to enable that person to travel in the vehicle” to qualify. 

But there are exceptions to the VAT exemption. For example, you’ll still need to pay VAT if your vehicle is: 

  • Used for commercial purposes. 
  • A mobility scooter. 

In April 2017, some changes were made to the legislation governing adapted motor vehicles by HMRC. 

Here’s a run-down of how those changes may affect you: 

  • Customer eligibility declaration forms are now mandatory, with penalties for incorrect submission.
  • You can only purchase one VAT-exempt vehicle under the relief scheme once every three years. 

Will I be entitled to a blue badge permit?

The blue badge permit scheme is designed to help those who are disabled park their vehicle more closely to where they want to go. 

There are some circumstances in which those with disabilities are automatically eligible for a blue badge, these include (but are not limited to):

  • If you get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). 
  • Are registered blind. 
  • In your ‘moving around’ area of your PIP assessment, you scored 8 points or more. 

Even if you don’t automatically qualify for a blue badge, there are circumstances where you might still be entitled to the permit. These might include if you struggle to use both your arms or you have problems walking. 

In either case, you can apply for a blue badge on GOV.UK online — there’s an extra section to fill in if you don’t fall into one of the automatic eligibility criteria.  

Driving with disability: a summary

Whilst being disabled won’t always stop you from driving in the UK, the DVLA needs to be informed of any condition that affects your ability to drive. And you must be aware that there are some conditions (including those that mean you can no longer drive safely) which mean you must give up your licence. 

The standards needed to pass the UK driving test for disabled drivers are the same as for those without disability. But, special provisions can be made during the test, including the use of an adapted vehicle, so it’s worth contacting your driving test centre in plenty of time beforehand. 

If you’re a disabled driver, then you may well be entitled to certain benefits — including a reduction or exemption from car tax and VAT and the provision of a blue badge permit. To see exactly what you might be eligible for, check out the GOV.UK website.

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