Achieve your Driving Goals
Driving is a symbol of independence, and personal identity and allows increased mobility options for work and social activities.1
Jump in my car
If you have a disability, driving can mean the difference between pursuing further education or employment opportunities and can provide you with the same opportunities as everyone else for a productive and fulfilling life.2
So how do you get behind the wheel?
Get a license
The first step to driving is to get your driver’s license. There are different rules depending on where you live, but at a high level the following may be relevant:
- Is your disability considered to be minor? If so, you may not require a medical or a disability driving test with an unconditional license
- If your disability is considered to be serious, a medical report may need to be submitted to the government license department in your state or territory. You may also need to meet a "fitness to drive" medical test.
- You may also be requested to undertake a driving assessment by an Occupational Therapist. This could be where vehicle modifications are suggested
- There is also a disability driving test that you may be required to sit.
An unconditional license means that no driving adaptions are required. A conditional license is awarded if vehicle modifications or other restrictions like driving between certain times of the day, or wearing glasses when driving, are used.
You should refer to the licensing department in your state or territory before committing to a driving test.
Find the right accessible vehicle
There are a number of accessible vehicles and it is handy to understand the different types available, depending on your individual access needs:
- Self-drive – allow a person with a disability to from a wheelchair to a swivel seat in order to drive the vehicle. These vehicles invariably have modifications to the driving or steering column to allow users to brake and accelerate with hand controls
- Wheelchair Drive - allows a person with a disability to access the controls of a modified vehicle from their wheelchair. Usually, these vehicles have brake and acceleration hand controls that have been modified on the steering or driving column
- Passenger Access - the most commonly available style of wheelchair accessible vehicles. This type of conversion allows for a passenger to travel in the vehicle in their wheelchair, as a passenger. Vehicles may accommodate multiple wheelchair spaces, or just one, depending on the capacity of the vehicle and style of conversion.
You can search eBility's current listings for accessible vehicles right now. We connect buyers and sellers of all things disability, including accessible vehicles, as well as aids, equipment and assistive technology that can help you get on the road.
NDIS and Vehicle Modifications
If you need modifications made to a vehicle to make it accessible for you to use, there is funding under the NDIS for vehicle modifications, as long as you specify that you need it within your plan. If you need specialised driver training, assistive technology or equipment to help you drive independently, then there is NDIS funding available for that too.
You might need a wheelchair ramp and modifications to accommodate your wheelchair, or you might need changes to the gear and driving controls, how you steer or accelerate or break in your vehicle, or you might need aids like Bioptic driving glasses, to enable you to drive independently.
There are certain specifications that need to be met before the NDIS will fund vehicle modifications. The vehicle modification must be deemed to be value for money and that the costs of the modifications are "reasonable and necessary". Plus, the modification will need to be effective and beneficial for the NDIS participant and help them to achieve their goals.
Funding will generally not cover the purchase of the motor vehicle, regular insurance or running costs, or major modifications where less than eight years have passed since the last period of major modifications (unless circumstances have changed).
Contact an Occupational Therapist or your NDIS Local Area Coordinator to discuss vehicle modifications or specialised driver training in your NDIS plan.
If you don’t want the commitment of a modified car but would still like the freedom of driving, then car sharing could be an option.
GoGet, the car share scheme now has a modified vehicle in its fleet of cars. The car, named ‘Philip’ is a Kia Carnival and has been modified to accommodate a wheelchair. The car can accommodate up to 8 people. The Go Accessible Plan is now available at: Go Get Accessible Plan
Self-driving or autonomous cars
Whilst self-driving or autonomous cars seem like a far off dream, in reality, they are in the testing stages. In 2020, Newcastle Council trialled the use of a driverless shuttle to transport individuals in and around central Newcastle.
With brands like Tesla and the rise of electronic and autonomous vehicles in the transport industry, autonomous driving for people with disabilities is not far off.
All new Tesla cars have the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving in almost all circumstances. The system is designed to be able to conduct short and long-distance trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat.
Greater driving access allows for greater independence, allowing individuals to take up employment or education opportunities previously denied them. This has direct knock-on benefits for individuals and the economy, with less reliance on government income support3 and greater economic impact. By 2050, an estimated additional 370,000 people with a disability could participate in employment.4
Information sourced from National Disability Insurance Agency, GoGet, IDEAS and Transport for NSW
 Kay, L., Bundy, A., & Clemson, L. (2009). Predicting Fitness to Drive in People with Cognitive Impairments by Using DriveSafe and DriveAware. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 90, 1514-1522
 Shut Out: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia, National Disability Strategy Consultation Report prepared by the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council, 2009