Can You Drive With A Disability?

Dr Handicap - driver

Having a disability doesn’t have to stop you from taking advantage of things many other people can – including driving. Learning how to drive is one of the biggest steps to personal and professional freedom for those with disabilities, and it’s a skill that allows you more control over your life. Of course, there are some special concerns that those with disabilities must be aware of before they get behind the wheel. Here’s what you need to know about driving with a disability.

Who Can Drive with a Disability?

While there are many different types of disabilities and many ways in which people who are disabled identify themselves, when talking about the laws surrounding, driving there are some definitions to be aware of.

When it comes to the laws associated with disabilities and driving, the term “disability” refers to people who require special adjustments to operate a vehicle. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects individuals who are disabled from being discriminated against – including on the road. It’s because of this law that a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles cannot deny a driver’s license to someone based only on their disability. This law also ensures that public spaces have disabled parking spaces to assist those that require them for access.

Each state has its own set of rules when it comes to laws surrounding disability and motor vehicles, but in general, if you have a disability, then you legally must make your state’s DMV aware of it. They may then issue you a restricted license based on limited mobility, hearing, or vision. You may also need to make modifications to your vehicle in order to operate it legally on the road.

What Kinds of Disabilities?

So which types of disabilities can you have but still legally operate a vehicle? If you suffer from one of the following conditions, then you can still drive a car safely – even if you use a wheelchair:

  • Absent limbs
  • Reduced limb function
  • Spinal cord injuries, depending on the severity and location
  • Mobility issues due to degenerative disorders, disease, heart attack, or stroke
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Paraplegia or hemiplegia
  • Neuromuscular disease
Dr Handicap - car dashboard

Driver’s Education for Disabled Drivers

Just as with any other driver, those with disabilities can take part in driver’s education. Many places have specific lessons for disabled drivers to help you learn how to use the modified controls on vehicles and any other special considerations that you may encounter.

Disabled drivers must be at least 16 years old and, like other drivers, must pass a test to get their license.

Disabled Parking Permits

When those with a disability get their driver’s license and have a vehicle they can operate, they will also need to obtain a disabled parking permit. These permits, also referred to as disabled placards, tags, or badges, allow disabled drivers to park in spaces reserved for those with a disability. You may also be able to access metered parking without paying or be allowed to park in time-limited spaces for longer than posted. Check with your state’s DMV to find out what your disabled parking permit entitles you to.

Who Can Get a Disabled Parking Permit?

Each state will have a list of specific criteria regarding the qualifying conditions for a disabled parking permit. The most common conditions that qualify you for a permit include:

  • A condition or disease that limits your ability to walk
  • Impaired mobility such as the use of a brace, cane, or wheelchair
  • Documents vision issues such as partial sightedness or low vision
  • Loss of the use of one or both hands or legs
  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease

Other conditions may qualify you, so make sure to check with your local DMV to find out more.

Dr Handicap - open road

How to Get a Disabled Parking Permit

There are a few steps you must take in order to obtain a disabled parking permit. You should:

  • Get an application – You can find applications in person at the DMV or through their website
  • Complete the form – You must complete parts of the form and your health care provider must complete another part in order to certify that you have a disability
  • Submit the application – You can submit the application either in person or by mail

Many people apply for a permanent disability parking permit, but many states also offer temporary disabled parking permits for other conditions. If you’ve recently had an injury or surgery that impairs your mobility, then you may qualify for one. Fees for any type of disability permits vary, so check with your DMV to find out more.

Driving is freedom. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you have to restrict that freedom. So find out what you need to do to get your license, and get yourself on the road to independence!