If you’re disabled, handicapped or just too injured to drive like you normally would, there are certain things you should know before you hit the road. Here are just eight important pieces of information if you want to stay safe and comfortable as a disabled driver.
You cannot be denied a driver’s license because of your disability
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects your right to obtain a driver’s license as a disabled citizen. You might need to follow certain rules or customize your vehicle in particular ways, but you can’t be denied a driver’s license based on your disabled status alone.
There’s a difference between disabled placards and handicapped license plates
License plates are issued to individual drivers for their personal use on their own vehicle. Placards and permits, on the other hand, can be moved from vehicle to vehicle. They’re useful if you have a relative or caregiver who drives you around and needs to be able to park in handicapped spots for you.
Different states have different laws about handicapped placards
While handicapped license plates are generally recognized throughout the U.S., the validity of your disabled placard might depend on your state.
- This is important to know if you plan to travel across state lines for a vacation or business appointment.
- You might want to visit your DMV and talk to someone about handicapped placard laws in the state where you’re going.
You’re required to disclose your disabled status when applying for a driver’s license
The DMV has the right to issue you a “restricted license” based on your results in vision and hearing tests. If you have severe disabilities, they might also send you to a driver rehabilitation program where a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) will test you on things like:
- Sensory awareness
- Cognitive function
You can be denied a license if you fail your driving tests
Just like any other driver, you have to prove that you can safely and responsibly handle your vehicle on the road.
- If you fail your rehabilitation or driver’s license tests, you’ll be denied your license until you bring your skills up to par.
- This is not a violation of the ADA.
Your vehicle might need modifications
Depending on your disability, you might find yourself in need of vehicular modifications in order to comfortably and lawfully drive. There are many ways that a vehicle can be customized for a disabled driver:
- Automatic transmission
- Power steering
- Wheelchair lift
- Hand controls for foot pedals
- Automatic locks on doors and windows
You might want to speak with disability advocates or representations at your DMV if you have questions about adaptive equipment.
Not all vehicular modifications are legal
Some states have outlawed certain vehicular modifications because of the risk they carry to both the disabled driver and other drivers on the road. For example, steering wheel spinner knobs (“suicide knobs”) are considered too dangerous for drivers in Washington, and drivers caught using them may be pulled over or issued a fine.
Your car may need to undergo inspection
Some states require periodic inspections of your vehicle to make sure they’re in good working order. For disabled drivers, you might need to find a special inspector with the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) who can assess your vehicle’s particular modifications. Consider calling the ADED to learn more.
These are just eight things that drivers with disabilities should know. As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind, but you’ll want to cross your “T”s and dot your “I”s to ensure that you’re legally licensed to drive.