Am I Eligible to Drive with My Disability?

power wheelchair user is eligible to drive handicap van

If you have a medical condition or disability, and if you could find a company that can convert a minivan for accessibility, you likely want to know if you're eligible to operate a vehicle. A medical condition or disability doesn't necessarily mean you can't or won't be allowed to drive.

In most states, people with certain medical conditions and disabilities must take a standard battery of tests at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine whether or not they can operate a vehicle safely. If you pass the tests, you're good to go. If you're unable to pass the tests, you still have options.

Often, it's simply a matter of having your vehicle outfitted with adaptive equipment. For instance, people with a disability that affects the legs are often able to drive using hand controls installed in the driver's position.

A person with a disability who wants a driver's license follows the same process as anyone else. In most states, you must first pass a knowledge exam and vision exam to obtain a learner's permit. This temporary permit allows you to drive with a licensed driver in the front-passenger seat. At this point you should make the DMV aware of any medical conditions or disabilities that may affect driving, including epilepsy, strokes and other neurological conditions, mental health problems, physical disabilities, and vision and hearing impairments. Your state may require your physician to fill out additional paperwork identifying which, if any, mobility equipment is necessary for you to drive safely (AMS Vans has a large inventory of accessibility minivans for sale), as well as if you can utilize a handicap placard that would permit you to park your mobility vehicle in designated handicap spaces. Your state's Department of Motor Vehicles' website should have the required forms online for downloading and printing. It's possible the DMV will put a restriction on your permit, allowing you to drive only vehicles upgraded with specialized driving aids.

Father and son entering a van Once you know the adaptive equipment you need to safely drive, you'll need to obtain a vehicle with the adaptive equipment you'll be using to take your driving test. You'll also need to get car insurance that covers drivers with disabilities and special riders. Then, you'll be directed to take a driver's education course. Many driver's education companies cater to drivers with disabilities and have accessible vehicles available to train you in. They'll teach you everything you need to know to drive with your mobility equipment to pass both the written and driving parts of the license exam.

Laws have also been put in place to further accommodate drivers with disabilities. Most people don't know that, when a handicap driver pulls into a self-serve gas station, a station attendant is required to pump the gas for you at no charge. There should be signage explaining how to get the attendant's attention without having to exit the vehicle, like honking the horn. The only exception to this law is when there's only one attendant on staff at the gas station, although it's still strongly recommended they accommodate you.