4 Things Family Members Of Disabled Drivers Should Know

Disabled adults face many challenges, but driving doesn’t have to be one of them. In fact, there are some ways that driving can be made much easier for those with disabilities. As a family member of someone who has a disability, you should understand what laws apply to disabled drivers, the education driving with disability requires, and how some vehicles may need to be modified. Here are all the things family members of disabled drivers should know.

1. Laws Surrounding Driving With Disability

Many federal laws oversee the ability of a person with a disability to drive on the roads. When discussing these driving laws, disabled usually refers to someone who has lost the use of one or more limbs and has to have adjustments made to a car in order to operate it.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled Americans are protected from being discriminated against both in the workplace and while accessing public services. A state’s Department of Motor Vehicles cannot deny a driver’s license to someone based solely on their disability status under the law. The law also states that disabled parking spaces must be available in parking lots, and must be wide enough to accommodate accessible vehicles with a ramp for wheelchairs.

Dr Handicap - parking lot
Image by Brydon McCluskey on Unsplash: Driving with a disability can be complicated. Make sure both you and the driver know the disabled driving laws.

Every state has its own laws surrounding disabled drivers, but some things are common across all states, such as the requirement of disabled drivers to disclose their disability to the DMV. The state may issue a restricted driver’s license based on the disability status of the person (mobility issues, limited vision, a hearing disability, etc.). The ways vehicles must be modified for disabilities differ from state to state, so if you have questions, make sure to contact your local DMV for more information.

2. Driver’s Education For Those With Disabilities

The driver’s education required for those with disabilities to obtain a driver’s license are much the same as any other driver’s education course, except that they may need specialized training based on any specific controls installed on a vehicle to help accommodate for their disability.

As with any other driver, a disabled driver must be at least 16, though driver’s education classes can begin at age 15. A theory test and a practical road test must be passed in order to obtain a driver’s license.

3. Requirements For Vehicles

Vehicle modifications for disabled drivers are based on the particular disability in question. Vehicles should include a feature that enables easy shifting and automatic transmission. It’s also a requirement for a disabled driver’s vehicle to have power steering, windows, seats, and locks.

Some disabled drivers may need a lift to access their vehicle and hand grips to transfer. If a driver is unable to use accelerator and brake pedals, their vehicles must have hand controls. However, you’ll want to check with your state to see what modifications are legal, since spinner knobs that make turning a wheel easier for a person with a disability have been outlawed in some states.

Dr Handicap - parking sign
Image by AbsolutVision on Unsplash: A driving license for physically handicapped people and vehicle modifications for disabled drivers can help individuals get around on their own.

4. Disabled Parking Permits

Another important item that may be required for a disabled driver is a disabled parking permit. The DMVs in each state issue these specialized parking permits, which may be given on a permanent or short-term basis. You need to check with your state to find out what the qualifying conditions are for a disabled parking permit; what forms must be filled out by the disabled driver and their doctor to secure one; and the cost, if any, of getting one.

A disabled parking permit will allow the driver to park in handicap-accessible spaces in parking garages and parking lots. These spaces are closer to the main entrance and have extra room for putting down a ramp for wheelchair access. Disabled parking may also allow a disabled driver to park on a street without paying the meter or to ignore parking with time limits. However, these privileges differ from state to state and even city to city, so you’ll need to make sure you and your disabled family member familiarize yourselves with state and local laws surrounding disabled parking.

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Why The Pandemic Is Hard For Disabled Drivers (And 4 Ways To Make It Easier)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 tough for just about everyone – including disabled drivers. From making it more difficult to go out, to the need for distance from friends and loved one in the interests of your health, the changes to regular life have been a hard pill to swallow.

Let’s take a look at a few of the hardships disabled drivers have faced as COVID has swept across the world, as well as a few vital tips to help make things a little bit easier.

Dr Handicap - COVID-19
Image by Adam Niescioruk on Unsplash: Wondering how people with disabilities can cope during the COVID-19 pandemic? Read on.

How Is The Coronavirus Impacting People With Disabilities?

There are several ways the pandemic has impacted those with disabilities, affecting their ease of navigating the world. Some of these challenges include:

1. Impact on health

While not everyone with a disability has other health problems, many do. So are people with underlying health conditions more at risk of getting COVID-19? Unfortunately, yes. Those with chronic conditions are in the higher risk category for COVID. As a result, they may have to take particularly stringent self-isolation measures in order to avoid exposing themselves to the virus and risking serious illness.

2. Difficulty in protecting themselves

Most people prepared for lockdown by going out and stocking up on the supplies they needed. But that’s something that may not have been as easy for disabled drivers and those with disabilities. It can be difficult for many disabled drivers and people with disabilities to get out in the middle of a pandemic and secure the supplies and medications they may need.

3. Threatening independence

Many disabled drivers are proud of the independence they’ve achieved in dealing with their disability. But still, many utilize support from others to help them maintain that independence, and that’s something that may have been disrupted by this outbreak.

4. Adding issues to long-term disabilities

The flexibility and accommodations those with disabilities need in the workplace can be disrupted by the pandemic – but on the bright side, it can also help workplaces to see just how well accommodations such as telecommuting can work.  

Dr Handicap - sanitizer
Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash: How do disabled drivers cope with COVID-19? Many ways, including strict sanitizing measures.

COVID-19 And Disabled Drivers

Navigating COVID-19 with a disability can be a challenge, but it’s still possible to retain your independence and live your life to the fullest in the midst of a pandemic.

Aside from washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask in public, you can protect your wellbeing and health by:

1. Take extra care to clean and sanitize

There are several steps disabled drivers can take to protect their health during this pandemic. You should regularly wash any mobility equipment you have such as crutches, wheelchairs, or walkers.

Also adjust how you go about some of your daily activities. For instance, if you have limited function of your hands, then avoid using your mouth to take off gloves as you may have in the past. If you have low vision, then you may need to touch more surfaces than other people; wear gloves to add an extra layer of protection.

2. Practice physical distancing

As well as practicing physical distancing in public places, it’s important to do so with outsiders in your own home. If you have caregivers that help with day-to-day tasks, try to limit your close interactions as much as possible. When you can’t practice physical distancing, wear a mask.

3. Think about communication

If you struggle with hearing issues, it can be difficult to understand what people are saying with a mask on. Carry a notepad and pen with you so you can have someone write down what they’re saying if you’re struggling to understand them from behind personal protective equipment such as masks and plexiglass. (Just be sure to sanitize the pen when they’re done using it!)

4. Plan ahead

You may need to have a plan for getting to the hospital if you get sick. If you think you’d be unable to drive yourself, then make sure you have someone to take you. If you do drive yourself, be sure you know where the nearest hospital is as well as where the disabled parking is available at the hospital to have one less thing to worry about if the situation occurs.

This pandemic has been difficult for many, but it adds another challenge for those with disabilities and disabled drivers. Try out the above tips so you can get back to living your life while being as safe as possible.

Featured image by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Is Height A Qualifying Condition For A Disabled Parking Permit?

Access to disabled parking in the United States is top tier. The program provides ample opportunity and availability for those with qualifying conditions to access parking that can make their daily lives easier.

Disabled parking spots can make all the difference for a person who has limited mobility due to any number of conditions, eliminating their need to exacerbate their condition just to go to an appointment or grocery store. But is there such a thing as a height disability parking permit? Can you get a handicap placard for being short?

Can you get a handicap sticker for being under 5 feet?

Being short is not generally considered a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for a person to qualify as disabled, they need to have an impairment that creates great obstacles in completing and participating in major life activities.

For example, if a person is under five feet tall but has no difficulty with mobility or driving, it’s not likely that they will qualify under the ADA. On the other hand, if a person has diastrophic dwarfism, a health condition that could potentially affect mobility due to joint differences and curvature of the spine, they would qualify for a permit.

Can you get a handicap sticker for being tall?

As with being short, being excessively tall is also not considered a disability in its own right. However, people with extreme tallness caused by a condition such as gigantism could end up suffering from more chronic health conditions than their average-height counterparts.

Gigantism is a condition caused by an excessive amount of growth hormone being released while a child grows. Conditions that are often associated with gigantism include enlargement of the hands and feet, which could pose mobility issues in adulthood; arthritis; an increased risk for heart disease; and vision loss. All of these repercussions qualify under the ADA as disabilities that could allow a person to have access to a handicap placard.

Dr Handicap - disabled parking on street
Image by Jared Murray on Unsplash: Can you get a handicap sticker for being short? Not just for being short, no!

Will extreme height or lack thereof ever be considered a disability?

Although height doesn’t count as a disability now, people on both ends of the spectrum have been vying to have it at least considered. One specific occurrence of this happened in 2013 when a woman felt as though she was disabled for a certain position within her workplace because of her short stature. She filed a claim with a court, and the ADA found that it might be a valid complaint against her employer.

On the flip side, another movement was launched claiming that a man was discriminated against while on an airplane because of his tallness. He claimed that he was made to stand in the aisle the entire flight because he couldn’t fit in the seat. The movement, aptly named “Tall Consumerism”, was launched back in 2009, but didn’t garner any true changes in disability law.

Disabled parking availability and qualifying conditions

By law, parking lots are required to have the minimum amount of designated parking spots depending on the size of the parking facility. In smaller lots with only 1–25 total spots, there needs to be at least 1 handicap spot available. The numbers grow as the parking facility gets bigger, up to 20 per 1000 spots, and then 1 per 100 thereafter.

There are many conditions that fall into the category of handicap parking permit allowance. People with advanced lung or heart conditions, limited mobility or a partial use of their legs, vision problems including partial or low-vision, certain neurological conditions, arthritis or arthritis-related diseases, and the loss of limbs all qualify for a handicap parking placard.

Dr. Handicap - Wheelchair Sign on Blue Brick
Image by arembowski on Pixabay: Parking lots require a certain amount of handicap spots depending on their size.

Being overly short or tall isn’t enough to qualify for a handicap parking permit unless it has a direct influence on a person’s health and mobility. Generally speaking, one of the aforementioned conditions needs to be present for someone to be considered a candidate for a handicap parking permit.

However, if being short or tall has led to a mobility issue or other health problem, it could be said that it is the first step towards being able to qualify for a handicap permit. Some believe that changes to the ADA should be made to accommodate people with limited or excessive stature, but those changes have yet to take place for Americans. 

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10 Things You Need To Know About Tax As A Disabled Driver

For millions of disabled Americans, the ability to drive is an essential and invaluable lifeline. Without access to a vehicle, many disabled Americans would be left stranded, cut off from society and the businesses and amenities we all depend on.

Many disabled drivers need to use vehicles that have been modified and adapted. Specially adapted vehicles enable people with a very wide range of disabilities to enjoy a high level of freedom and independence. Modern technology has enabled the creation of ingenious vehicle modifications that make it possible for disabled drivers to operate their vehicles safely and effectively.

Adapted vehicles for disabled drivers do not come cheap. A lot of extra expenses are associated with being a disabled driver. The IRS realizes that these extra expenses are not luxuries, they are essential necessities. For this reason, the IRS allows many of the expenses related to driving with a disability to be tax-deductible.

As a disabled driver, it is crucial that you understand your tax rights. Being knowledgeable about tax and what you are entitled to as a disabled driver, or as a caregiver to a disabled person, can save you a lot of money.

Here are 10 things you need to know about tax as a disabled driver.

Dr Handicap - income tax
Image by stevepb on Pixabay: Are you taxed as a disabled driver? Yes, but deductions may be available.

1. Don’t Miss The Tax Return Deadline

As a disabled driver it is important that you file your tax return correctly and on time. Disabled driver tax deductions can put a lot of money back in your pocket, so you don’t want to miss out!

The deadline for filing your IRS tax return is in April. The exact date changes year to year. In 2021 the federal tax date is Thursday April 15th.

State tax returns can be filed along with federal tax returns, but some people choose to file their state return separately. State tax return deadlines vary, so it is important to consult with your local state tax agency in order to know the deadline in your state.

2. A Tax Advisor Can Save You Money

Some people choose to file their own tax return. In fact, some people love learning about tax and doing their own return. But this is certainly not everybody!

People who find tax tedious and dread doing their own tax return are surely in the majority. If you are someone who has no interest in learning about tax, it can be helpful and profitable to pay a tax advisor to do your tax return for you. Commissioning an expert tax advisor can end up saving you a lot of money.

3. Disabled Drivers Can Qualify For A Sales Tax Exemption

Disabled drivers can qualify for a sales tax exemption on the purchase of a vehicle in some states. Check with your local tax authorities to find out what applies in your state.

4. Most Disabled Vehicle Modifications Are Tax-Deductible

Essential vehicle adaptations are tax-deductible. These essential adaptations include:

  • Wheelchair lifts
  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Electronic hand controls
  • Left-side accelerator pedals
  • Raised ceilings
  • Lowered floors

5. Some Disabled Vehicle Modifications Do Not Qualify For A Tax Deduction

Some vehicle modifications are not considered to be essential and so do not qualify for a tax deduction. These include:

  • Power steering
  • Automatic transmission
  • Running boards
  • Grab bars
  • Steering wheel knobs

6. Specialist Wheelchair Vans Are Tax-Deductible

If you buy a specialist wheelchair van, the difference in cost between a non-wheelchair van of the same type and the wheelchair van is tax-deductible.

7. Driving Expenses For Medical Purposes Are Tax-Deductible

You can claim a tax deduction for driving expenses that are for medical purposes. This can include gas, parking, and toll fees incurred during travel to doctor’s surgeries and hospital, and any other medical related travel.

Dr Handicap - disabled driver tax
Image by stevepb on Pixabay: It is crucial to know your tax rights as a disabled driver.

8. Parents And Caregivers Of Disabled People Can Qualify For A Sales Tax Exemption

Tax deductions for vehicle adaptations and specialist wheelchair vans also apply to parents and caregivers of disabled people for the vehicles that they use to transport the disabled person, or people, they are responsible for.

9. You Can Get A Tax Deduction If You Buy An Eco-friendly Vehicle

If you choose to buy an eco-friendly vehicle you can get a federal tax deduction. This is intended to encourage people to buy vehicles that will do less damage to the environment. These tax incentives can come in the form of income tax credits or tax refunds.

10. If You Have Paid Tax In Error You Can Claim A Refund

Many disabled drivers are due tax refunds. In order to receive a tax refund you must file a tax return claiming the refund within three years of the original return’s due date.

If you are a disabled driver, or a caregiver to a disabled person, you are also entitled to a disabled parking permit. The quickest and easiest way to apply for a disabled permit is to arrange an online consultation with a medical professional through Dr. Handicap. The consulting medical professional will evaluate your claim and then write you a DMV form, which will be emailed to you straight away.

Featured image by nattanan23 on Pixabay

Will Medicare Pay For A Wheelchair Access Van?

Medicare helps a lot of people, especially those with disabilities. Still, it changes quite frequently and what was once covered may not be covered anymore.

Many people with mobility issues need a van to transport themselves and their equipment where they need to go. But this is not an inexpensive purchase. The question many people want to know is: will Medicare pay for a wheelchair access van? Read on to find out more!

Who Does Medicare Cover?

In the United States, Medicare is a health program for people over the age of 65 and people under that age with a disability. It provides healthcare coverage so you can see a doctor and receive medication. The real question for those with disabilities is: will it help to cover the things needs to improve your personal mobility?

Dr Handicap - health care
Image by Bill Oxford on Unsplash: Will Medicare pay for a wheelchair access van? Maybe – if you have Part C.

Will Medicare Pay For A Wheelchair Accessible Van?

Medicare is made up of four parts and each part has a separate function. These parts are:

  • Part A – Covers skilled nursing care, hospice, and hospital services
  • Part B – Covers outpatient services
  • Part C – Also called Medicare Advantage; allows a patient to choose a health care plan with a private health care provider and may help with the costs associated with transportation (but you’ll need to check with your provider)
  • Part D – Covers prescriptions

There’s no guarantee that Part C will help with any costs associated with a new van. As you can see, Parts A, B, and D have no coverage for mobility aids such as a handicap accessible van.

Will Medicare Help Pay For A Wheelchair Lift On A Vehicle?

The answer to this question is, unfortunately, no. While many people depend on Medicare to help cover their health care costs, it does not deem mobility devices as a covered expense. Medicare is not meant to be a full-coverage option of health care for most people. Instead, it is meant to be a foundation from which you can build a plan that helps to cover your health care costs.

Does Medicare Cover Power Wheelchairs or Scooters?

Power wheelchairs and scooters are classified under Medicare as power-operated vehicles. That’s not the same as a personal mobility vehicle, which is what they consider a handicap accessible van. Medicare does pay for power-operated vehicles, such as a power wheelchair. But even with a prescription for durable medical equipment from your treating physician, Medicare will not cover a personal mobility vehicle.

If you’re looking to get a power-operated vehicle, it’s important to know that a prior authorization is required before it will cover the purchase. If your doctor prescribes a scooter, for example, you must have the durable medical equipment device supplier submit a request on your behalf to Medicare before it is covered. If you buy it first then apply for reimbursement, then you may find yourself in a tough spot.

What About Medicare’s Medigap Coverage?

Medicare offers something called Medigap. This is an additional health insurance plan that can be purchased from a private health care provider that will cover things Medicare will not cover, such as deductibles and co-pays.

It’s important to note that Medigap doesn’t allow for additional coverage such as vision or dental and many won’t cover prescription drugs, either. Medigap also won’t cover accessible van purchases.

Dr Handicap - research
Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash: Medicare grants for wheelchair vans are out there, you simply need to do your research to find them.

Who Can Help With Accessible Van Purchases?

If you’re disabled and need an accessible van to provide transportation, there are programs out there that can help. Grants are available nationwide, as well as grants in specific states and for people with specific conditions. Doing a search for these grants may help to get you at least some of the money you need for an accessible van purchase.

A couple of options that can help pay for your accessible van include:

  • The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs has accessible van grants available for veterans
  • Special financing options from accessible van dealers

If you or someone you love is struggling to find the resources for an accessible van, Medicare may not be able to help, but there is help out there. Don’t give up if you are having issues finding assistance, because this is a problem many of those in wheelchairs must contend with, and help is available.

Featured image by Dave Kim on Unsplash