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Preparing for the Driving Test as a Disabled Individual

The ability to drive is synonymous with independence for everyone, including disabled individuals. For some, the traditional driving test may not be feasible, especially if specific operating controls are needed. When it comes to the driving test for disabled individuals, there are things to know, from the best ways to prepare for the test and what to know about the evaluation to the necessary steps that will ensure a smooth journey toward obtaining your driver’s license. 

The Disabled Driver Evaluation: What to Expect

Understanding the nuances of the driving test for disabled individuals is crucial. The purpose of taking the driving test is to evaluate your ability to drive safely. The ability to drive safely is determined based on physical, visual, and mental capabilities, which are tested by evaluating reaction time, visual acuity, and decision-making. Overall, the test will take between three to eight hours, but the length of time will vary based on the unique needs of each individual.

Generally, the driving test is administered by an occupational therapist or certified driving rehabilitation specialist. If the therapist or specialist believes it essential, they may offer adaptive solutions to use during the test, such as a wide-angle mirror, hand controls, or additional information on transportation options in the community to replace or minimize trips you make with your own vehicle.

Qualifying to Drive with a Disability

Despite physical challenges, many individuals with disabilities are eligible to drive. However, to qualify as a licensed disabled driver with necessary provisions, the individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Over the age of 16
  • Successfully complete a driver’s education course
  • Pass the written test
  • Pass an on-the-road driving test in a vehicle equipped with adaptive controls
  • Pass an eye exam
  • Fulfill all requirements for an unlicensed driver’s permit

Taking the driver’s test as a disabled individual may come from the referral of a physician, specialist, eye doctor, occupational therapist, driving school, gerontologist, parent, or spouse.

Learning to Drive with Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment makes obtaining a driver’s license accessible for disabled individuals. Depending on your needs, you may require the driving test be performed with the adaptive equipment you’d be using on a regular basis. Some of this equipment could be built into the vehicle during production, or installed later by an experienced professional. In some cases, a fully equipped wheelchair-accessible vehicle is ideal, such as those built by Braunability, that are designed to accommodate your adaptive needs while being comfortable for the whole family. Others may opt for smaller changes to an existing vehicle, like installing hand controls for better control. In general, which option you choose will depend on your functionality needs and overall budget.

Working With a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist

A certified driver rehabilitation specialist, or CDRS, is a general healthcare professional who has both medical expertise and extensive training in driver rehabilitation. In order to qualify as a CDRS, the practitioners must pass an exam developed by The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) that demonstrates their ability to provide professional services to disabled individuals. These specialists are also required to meet continual educational requirements to maintain their certification.

The job of a CDRS is to work with individuals who may require adaptive equipment to drive a vehicle. They can also help determine what type of adaptive equipment is best for you if you aren’t quite sure of your needs.

Working with a CDRS will ensure you can complete the driver evaluation with all of the accommodations you need to safely operate a motor vehicle.

After the Test: Applying for a Handicap Permit

Following a successful driving test, obtaining a handicap permit is a crucial step for parking legally and accommodating mobility equipment. In the state of Missouri, any physically disabled person or parent or guardian of a physically disabled person can qualify for a Permanent Disabled Placard. This placard is a removable tag that hangs from the rearview mirror of a vehicle when parking in disabled parking spaces.

The state defines a physical disability as having at least one of the following:

  • The inability to walk 50 feet without stopping to rest because of a severe or disabling condition, whether arthritic, neurological, orthopedic, or other condition.
  • The inability to walk without using a form of assistive equipment, such as a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other device.
  • A respiratory or other disease that restricts your forced expiratory volume for one second as measured by spirometry is less than one liter, or arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest.
  • You utilize portable oxygen.
  • You have a cardiac condition that has your functional limitations classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to the standards set by the American Heart Association.
  • You are blind as defined in Section 8.700, RSMo, which states you have no more than 20/200 central vision acuity in the better eye with correcting lenses.

Your physical disability diagnosis must be certified by a licensed physician, chiropractor, podiatrist, physician’s assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, physical therapist, or optometrist, and they must complete a Physician’s Statement for Disabled Person’s Plates/Placard (Form 1776).

Passed the Test? Get the Equipment and Vehicle You Need at Southern Bus & Mobility

The driving test for disabled individuals is a pivotal step toward independence. By being well-prepared and informed about the evaluation, qualifications, adaptive equipment, and support services available, you can confidently navigate the road to mobility. As you embark on your driving journey, Southern Bus & Mobility is your trusted partner for all vehicle mobility needs. From adaptive equipment to wheelchair-accessible vehicles, we provide comprehensive solutions.

Visit one of our NMEDA QAP Certified dealer locations, or contact us today for all of your accessible vehicle needs.