Driving with a disability is a possibility for some members of the disability community!
As a person with low vision, one of the hardest aspects of my sight loss has been coming to terms with the fact that driving just isn’t an option for me. As a young person, I felt sorrow as I watched my peers all achieve the milestone of receiving their drivers’ licenses. As an adult, I have learned that independence is still possible, even if a person is unable to drive. I particularly enjoyed living in Washington D.C., where public transportation was widely available. In my current position as a pastor in Pennsylvania, I have found other ways of achieving independence by making certain that I have reliable transportation.
The following is a very informative infographic which was sent to me by Micheal Leavy, the Managing Director of Home Healthcare Adaptations. Home Healthcare Adaptations is a family owned company based in Dublin that specializes in adapting homes in order to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.
Every disability is unique and every person is different. There is no one way to live your best life as a person with a disability. Driving isn’t an option for me, but it can be a possibility or other people with disabilities. This infographic is full of great information and I am happy to share it with you today!
Note: At the bottom of this page, you will find a transcript with image descriptions for people who are visually impaired, have print disabilities, or simply prefer plain text.
Driving with a Disability: Infographic
By: Michael Leavy
Driving is one of the best skills we can accomplish, as learning this skill enables us to travel independently. It can be difficult to learn, though, especially for people with disabilities who face physical as well as psychological challenges when getting behind the wheel.
Just because someone has a disability, though, does not automatically mean they’ll never be able to drive. Most modern cars will either be somewhat user-friendly for people with disabilities or can be adapted to cater for a person’s medical condition.
When buying a car for a driver with disabilities, look for certain features that will make the motoring experience easier, such as wide doors, low entry points, height-adjustable seats, and grab handles. In terms of the car’s controls, gear sticks and pedals can be modified to enable a person to drive that car. Pedals can be extended or gears can be changed with a button press, for example. If the driver is limited in their neck movement, additional or wide-angled mirrors could be fitted.
Drivers with a physical or mental disability are advised to notify their country’s relevant authority so that these can be referenced on the person’s licence. If you have a medical condition that could affect your ability to drive and you’re advised by a doctor to stop driving, then follow their advice and explore the possibility of acquiring an adapted car.
Some countries have financial schemes which help disabled drivers, such as fuel grants or tax relief on new vehicles. Family members of disabled passengers might also be able to claim tax relief if they are chiefly responsible for that person’s travel and have bought a car primarily for that purpose.
This infographic from Home Healthcare Adaptations contains some very useful tips for driving with a disability. For blind or visually impaired readers, there is a transcript of the infographic below.
Transcript by Michael Leavy
(An elderly woman is driving along a road with a city backdrop.)
Title: Driving with a Disability
A physical disability can make driving quite a difficult task, although it is still very much possible and may require little more than a couple of adaptations to a vehicle. Driving is a vital skill in promoting independence, something that is valued greatly by people with disabilities.
Section 1: Choosing a vehicle
Your choice of vehicle will probably be determined by the nature of your disability or physical condition and how easy or difficult it is for you to get into and out of a vehicle. Here’s what you should be looking for depending on your circumstances.
(Image of a seated person’s legs.)
If you can’t bend your legs, look for a car with a wide door, a seat that can slide back far enough to give room for your legs, a low sill; no large or obstructive protruding door pockets.
(Image of a car seat.)
If you have difficulty getting out of a seat, look for a car with seats that are an ideal height from the ground, height-adjustable seats, or a grab handle above the seats.
(Image of a person in a wheelchair.)
If you need an easy transfer from a wheelchair, look for a car with seats that are an ideal height from the ground, seats that are quite close to the car’s side, a door that opens wide enough to get the wheelchair in the right position; no obstructive protruding door pockets.
(Image of a car door.)
If you can’t bend your upper body, look for a car with a high or wide door, or a door opening which slopes gently.
Section 2: Vehicle Adaptations
Entering and exiting the vehicle:
(A car with its doors and trunk open.)
- Door handle extension
- Swivel seats
- Sliding boards to bridge the gap between wheelchair and car seat
- Leg lifter, a looped strap to lift a person’s legs into the vehicle
- Electric lifts and easy loaders
(A person is driving a car, with the steering wheel, vehicle controls and dashboard visible.)
- Steering wheel spinners to provide maximum control with a single arm
- Enhanced power steering for drivers with reduced upper body strength
- Push and pull hand controls for braking and acceleration
- Push-button handbrakes and gear shifts
- Pedal extensions
(A person is driving a car, with the steering wheel visible.)
- Steering wheel spinner operation of indicators, wipers, lights and horn
- Floor switches for foot operation of secondary controls
- Head-activated headrest switches
- Air blow switches
(A car door is open, with the wing mirror visible.)
- Additional mirrors for drivers with restricted neck movement
- Panoramic and wide-angle view mirrors
Section 3: Disabled Driver Testing
(A disabled driver is receiving instruction from her driving examiner.)
When applying for your test, you should notify the relevant authority of any disability you have which could affect your driving. You should also mention if you drive an adapted vehicle so that any specific arrangements are accommodated on the day of the test.
The test examiner will have been trained to take your disability into account and to ensure that, if you are taking the test in an adapted vehicle, you will be in control of it at all times.
In the unlikely event of your test center not being wheelchair-accessible, you can conduct the theory part of the test in your vehicle.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can be accompanied by a sign language interpreter for the theory part of the test but not the practical driving.
If you drive an adapted vehicle for the test, the tester will allow for extra time for some maneuvers. Likewise, if you are deaf or hard of hearing, you will most likely be allowed a bit more time for the practical test in case of communication difficulties. However, a reasonable degree of progress is still expected in both cases.
Section 4: Medical Obligations
(A man is walking with a crutch and his right leg is heavily bandaged.)
If you hold a driving licence, you should inform the relevant licensing authority if you have a new or long-standing medical condition or disability which could affect your ability to drive, or if mild symptoms of a medical condition or disability become notably more pronounced.
(A man is walking with a Zimmer frame.)
Medical conditions or disabilities which could affect your ability to drive include epilepsy, strokes, visual impairments, physical impairments and mental health issues.
(A blind man is carrying a walking stick.)
If a medical professional advises you to discontinue driving, you should heed their advice and notify the relevant licensing authority, who will then evaluate your case and recommend whether an adapted car could enable you to continue driving.
Section 5: Financial Allowances
(A fuel tank is being filled with gas.)
In some countries, there are financial schemes which could benefit disabled drivers. For instance, you could avail of a fuel grant within a specified cumulative yearly distance or get exemption from toll charges.
(Image of a car.)
Drivers with disabilities might be able to claim tax relief on a new vehicle or a used vehicle that has not previously been registered in that state or country.
(Image of tax forms.)
Family members of disabled passengers who live with the family full-time might qualify for tax relief if they are primarily responsible for the transport of the person with a disability and have bought their vehicle for that purpose.
If you found this article helpful, you may also enjoy my interview with the author of Thriving Blind and TEDx Speaker, Kristin Smedley or the great articles in CAPTIVATING, a free monthly magazine created by people with disabilities that showcases the the achievements of people with disabilities.
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