Driving with a disability
If you have a physical disability, you’ll be given a fair opportunity to demonstrate your driving ability in a standard driving test. If required, you can take a disability driving test, which takes into account your capabilities and any aids or vehicle modifications you need to drive.
Roads and Maritime Services considers that minor disabilities generally don’t prevent you from driving safely. Minor disabilities include:
- Loss of up to three fingers on one hand
- Loss of toes
- Slight stiffness in a joint
- One limb slightly shorter than the other
- Any other minor condition.
You don’t need a medical review or report, disability driving test or any condition added to your licence, provided you have no other medical conditions to declare.
Serious disabilities include:
- Loss or serious impairment of one or both legs
- Loss or serious impairment of one or both arms
- Loss of more than three fingers on one hand
- Any other serious physical or mental disability.
In most cases, a serious disability means you’ll need to use special aids, appliances or vehicle modification in order to safely drive, for example artificial limb(s), hand controls, steering wheel aids or electronic indicators.
If this applies to you, you’ll need to pass a disability driving test in order to be issued, or keep, your licence.
First time drivers with a serious disability
If you have a serious disability and apply for a licence for the first time, you’ll be asked to provide a satisfactory medical report from your doctor. This is to make sure Roads and Maritime is fully aware of the condition, and so your doctor can recommend any specific licence restrictions, vehicle modifications or further assessments (for example an Occupational Therapist driving assessment).
Your licence will be issued with the relevant conditions added. Any vehicle modifications required must be fitted while you hold your learner licence. Once you’ve completed all the relevant learner driver requirements, you will need to pass a disability driving test to progress to a provisional P1 licence.
Current licence holder with a serious disability
If you already hold a licence, and inform Roads and Maritime of a serious disability for the first time (ie a newly acquired condition), you’ll need to provide a satisfactory medical report from your doctor to confirm your current condition and medical fitness to continue to drive.
Once you provide a satisfactory medical report, Roads and Maritime may ask you to undertake a disability driving test, depending on your specific circumstances.
Additional conditions may also be applied to your licence.
How we assess your driving ability
If you have a disability that limits your body movement, or requires the use of aids, appliances and/or vehicle modifications, Roads and Maritime applies various principles to determine your fitness to drive.
If you wear an appliance, its mass and dimensions must not interfere with your ability to control the vehicle.
If you’re unable to use either leg, hand controls are required.
The leg operating the accelerator and foot brake generally requires some mobility of the hip, knee and ankle. For a manual vehicle, the leg operating the clutch generally requires similar mobility.
In an automatic vehicle, the accelerator and brake can be used by either the right or left leg, or both (one for each pedal). If you only use your left leg, the accelerator should be fitted to the left of the brake pedal (unless Roads and Maritime approves operation with the pedals in their normal position).
If you use an artificial (prosthetic) leg to operate the foot pedals, you will need to pass a disability driving test before you can drive on your own using the artificial leg.
If you already hold a licence and have had your left leg amputated but still have full use of your right leg, you don’t need to take a driving test, as long as you only drive an automatic car. Your existing licence will have a condition added that you can only drive an automatic.
The use of only one arm may be enough to drive an automatic vehicle, but you must be able to reach and operate the major controls, without taking your hand off the steering wheel. You may need vehicle modifications, such as an extended indicator switch or an electronic indicator.
A steering wheel aid, such as a spinner knob, may be required, for example if you’ve lost more than three fingers on one hand. Power steering may be necessary or advisable.
Using the parking brake as an emergency brake is not essential in cars with dual-circuit braking systems (all cars built since 1972). Your licence may have the condition ‘Vehicle to have dual circuit brakes or handbrake operable by left/right hand’ added to it.
Neck and head disabilities
If you have a severe restriction to your ability to rotate your head, wing mirrors or a panoramic/fisheye mirror must be fitted to both sides of your vehicle, to improve rear and side vision. If you install additional mirrors, you don’t need to take a disability driving test, but a condition covering the use of the mirrors will be added to your licence.
Vehicles modified for people with disabilities
There are very few production vehicles made for people with disabilities. In most cases, standard production vehicles are specially modified to cater for drivers and passengers with disabilities.
If you have made modifications to your vehicle, you need to attend a registry or service centre to have the conditions for the modifications recorded on your licence, and possibly your vehicle registration, depending on the modifications.
If you require major modifications to your vehicle (for example hand controls or structural changes to the vehicle), Roads and Maritime recommends that you undertake training and assessment with a suitably qualified Occupational Therapist, before having the vehicle modified. Occupational Therapists can help with finding the right modifications for you and also assist with having modifications installed by a qualified installer. To find a qualified Occupational Therapist, see the Occupational Therapy Australia website.
Information about vehicle modification is also available in Vehicle Standards Information (VSI) 21 - Vehicles modified for people with disabilities, or by phoning Roads and Maritime Technical Enquiries on 1300 137 302.
If you apply for a rider licence and have lost or have serious impairment of any limb, you will need to provide a satisfactory medical report from your doctor and successfully complete an assessment of your riding ability.
The riding assessment may be conducted by a Roads and Maritime testing officer qualified in disability riding assessment, or as part of a pre-learner and/or pre-provisional rider training course. See Motorcycle rider training for more information.
In some cases, your motorcycle may need modification to suit your needs. Roads and Maritime disability testing officers can provide advice – phone 13 22 13 or visit a registry or service centre.