For people with disabilities, the ability to drive can have a profound impact on their lives. The new found freedom to be able to go to visit family or friends, and to go shopping without having to rely on others cannot be underestimated. The process for taking driving lessons is that the person must be assessed. Depending on the disability the assessment will be undertaken by an Occupational Therapist and or a driving instructor. If the person needing assessment has a neurological condition then they must first be assessed by an OT.
Note: An on-road driving assessment should not be compared to a Road Safety Authority driving test. Both have the objective of promoting safe driving however a driving test has a pass or fail outcome, whereas an assessment has a much wider range of options. One of the main objectives is to support and maintain a person’s mobility through driving, and to explain the options available to them after a disability has been incurred.
Adaptations can modify the operation of the foot pedals, the steering and the secondary controls (indicators, horn, headlamp dip/flash, wipers and washers); the gear lever and the hand brake can also be modified. If the legs cannot be used for acceleration and braking then hand controls could be considered. If there is a weakness down one side then using the stronger side, either right or left, would be advisable.If the steering cannot be operated with both hands, modification can be made to operate it with one and if the secondary controls cannot be operated without letting go of the steering then these can be operated remotely. For more severe disability the adaptations required become much more complex.