Why learn to drive?
Learning to drive and buying a car is a brilliant way to get mobile. It not only gives you a great feeling of independence, but for some, is a really practical solution for getting out and about.
You will have the freedom to travel absolutely anywhere, on your own for the first time. This can be a bit daunting for any new drivers. Most people start off by making small journeys and then build up the distances they travel as their confidence grows.
Access & parking
Most major motorway service stations have excellent access and disabled parking, making long journeys much easier – it’s always important to take breaks on those long trips, as tiredness is one of the main causes of accidents in the UK.
Another thing to consider, depending on your disability, is how easy it will be to get around at the other end of your trip. This just takes a little bit of extra planning and research, and shouldn’t be something that puts you off. The rewards of being able to take off in your new car are well worth it!
How about parking? Well, the Blue Badge scheme operates throughout the UK, and provides a range of parking benefits for disabled people with walking difficulties who travel either as drivers or as passengers.
The scheme only applies to on-street parking. It includes free use of parking meters and pay-and-display bays. If you are a Blue Badge-holder, you are usually free from limits on parking times too, and can park for up to three hours on some yellow lines.
Also, most places will have special disabled parking bays. You can see these in most places, like super markets, theatres and sports halls. All you have to do when making use of them is to remember to display your badge when you park.
As a new driver you also have a responsibility when you buy a car and to make sure that it’s taxed and has an up-to-date MOT certificate. Read the article on buying a car on this website for more information about the do’s and don’t of buying a car.
If you are disabled one of the most obvious things to consider when buying a car, is getting it adapted to your needs. Most cars can be converted to suit your disability. This can range from a simple hand control to very technical ‘joystick’ controls.
You might also be eligible for a grant to assist with the extra costs for any conversions you need. These grants are offered by charitable organisations. You can read the article on adapting your vehicle and how to find out about grants on this website.
When & where to learn
If you are interested in learning to drive, you can apply for your provisional licence within three months of your sixteenth birthday. You won’t be able to start learning until you are sixteen though. You will need to check with local driving schools if you don’t yet have an adapted car, as they might be able to provide one for you.
Also, check with your local test centres about their disabled access policy, when you are ready for your test you will need to advise them about your disability. This is so they can give more time to your test as the examiner may need time to understand your disability before they can start to assess your driving.
You might also need more time getting to and into your car, depending on your disability.
Who can help?
If possible, speak to any disabled drivers that you know, as they will be able to give you first hand practical advice about the problems they faced and how they overcame them.
The Direct Gov website has a wealth of information about taking your test, The Blue Badge scheme and just about anything to do with the legal stuff you need to know. Visit their site at www.direct.gov.uk/DisabledPeople/MotoringAndTransport/fs/en.
The Motability website is dedicated to encouraging disabled drivers, and online you will find information about how to apply for a grant to pay for your vehicle, especially if it needs to be adapted. You can visit their site at www.motability.co.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?nodeid=89592.
You can also visit the Disabled Living Foundation at www.dlf.org.uk/ for free, impartial advice about all types of disability equipment and mobility products for disabled people.