Handicap Driving: Evaluation and Certification Requirements

Handicap Driving Certifications: Step 1 In Your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Journey

In order to independently drive your own accessible vehicle as a wheelchair user, you will first need to be evaluated by a driver rehabilitation specialist. A driver rehabilitation specialist is a professional who is skilled in driver education and training in transportation equipment modifications for people with disabilities. Just like a driver’s education course you take when you first get your driver’s permit and license, the evaluation process from a driver rehabilitation specialist consists of two parts: a pre-driving education section and a driving evaluation with training.

Each state bureau of motor vehicles has requirements for reporting changing medical conditions or diagnosis. If you were to be involved in an accident while operating a vehicle without completing this process, there may be additional consequences. Be sure to register before getting behind the wheel of an accessible vehicle. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Disability Driver’s License?

The driving certification and evaluation process generally takes from three to six months to complete including evaluation, receiving a permit, completing training, and receiving a driver’s license.

a man getting ready to drive his wheelchair SUV

Driving Certification Clinical Evaluation

Before you start your clinical evaluation from the driver rehabilitation specialist, you’ll need a prescription from your doctor. It may also be helpful to have on hand therapy reports, neuropsychological testing results or clinical testing results where applicable.

The clinical portion of your evaluation will address your medical and driving history, test your visual acuity and perception, and assess your cognitive and physical skills.

This portion generally takes about four hours to complete. Your specialist is your strongest driving advocate and wants to help you in your goal to get you back behind the wheel. 

Driving Certification Driving Evaluation Requirements

After completing your clinical evaluation, you are ready for your driving assessment in a wheelchair accessible vehicle1.  This may be your first time seeing or being inside an accessible vehicle. You’ll notice that aside from the lowered floor and ramp, the vehicle maintains most of its original design and features, making it feel like any other vehicle. Your driver rehabilitation specialist will be testing your ability to drive with adaptive equipment and help to determine what type of equipment is easiest for you to operate.

Keep in mind:

  1.  The vehicle you use for the driving test must be modified to accommodate your disability. Your driving rehabilitation specialist will have access to an accessible vehicle and any hand controls will be prescribed and installed at that time.
  2. You must be at least 15 years old before you begin driving instruction and 16 before you can legally drive yourself and others on the road.
  3. You are required to pass both the written and driving portion of the test in order to get your license to drive a wheelchair accessible vehicle. If you have a hearing impairment, the theory portion of the test is available in many formats including video, written and audio.  

Paying for a Driving Evaluation and Parking Permit or Placard

The cost of a driving evaluation will vary depending on your equipment needs. If you are eligible for services from workman’s compensation insurance policy, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Veteran’s Administration or other agencies, funding may be available to help cover these costs.

A handicap parking permit from the DMV generally costs between $20 and $40. This is a special tag that is hung from your rearview mirror to signify that you require handicap accessible parking at the places you visit. Read more about how to get a handicap parking permit here.

Find a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist Near You

Local driver rehabilitation centers can help you find a certified specialist in your area. Additionally, you can visit the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) for a list of certified specialists near you.

Driving Evaluation

If you don’t already have a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit, you will need to apply for one. You can’t be denied the opportunity to apply because of your disability, but you may be issued a restricted license based on the use of adaptive devices.