You may remember in the past I wrote for Peoples Ford about my adapted car, my Ford Tourneo Connect. This is all operated electronically with hand controls called “space drive”. I found learning to drive such a massive task, both physically and mentally too. Oh and to add, we also had a pandemic just as I started to learn… Anyway, after 3 years of learning I passed first time!
When I started to get to the point where I was ready to pass my test, I had a few questions about how it would go as a disabled driver at my test. And interestingly, no one seemed to quite know how it worked for me - so I thought I’d share some tips for any disabled people with adapted hand controls taking their test soon..!
Let’s just kick the myth straight away that everyone suggests. There’s no “different” test. We’re all driving on the same road so the test needs to work out if you’re a safe driver. I always found this weird when people asked me this - there’s no perks or short cuts. Driving is driving. You’ll be asked to do all the same “show me tell me” questions as well as manoeuvres that your teacher would like you to do. The only difference for me was that when I arrived at the test centre, my instructor signed in for me and the examiner came out to my car. I used my own car so I could use my hand controls adaptations.
Speaking of adaptations - you may be asked to tell your examiner about your car. As they may not be knowledgeable about how it works, it’s important for them to know how you’ll be driving. This is because in the test they’ll be asking you to complete a task while driving. For me it was washing my windows. It’s also an opportunity for you to explain any reasonable adjustments to your examiner. For example, for me - I explained that I have extra blind spot mirrors as I can’t turn my whole body around for the 360 degree check. He was fine with this and noted it down. This made me feel extra comfortable and like I was ready to do my best.
At the time of writing this, I was allowed extra time as are all disabled drivers. Remember to click that you’re disabled when booking your test and you’ll be offered it too. This is mostly due to the fact that at the beginning you’re asked about your disability and adaptations which can take around 15 minutes. I was a little thrown by being asked about my disability but they only needed the high level info so it wasn’t too bad. I’ve also been told that there’s space for you to have a 5 minute rest mid way if needed too. However, that’s not something I took advantage of.
When you’re disabled, it sometimes can take a while to get to know how your body works best in new tasks. This was definitely something I had to work out. For example, when I drove up hill - I realised my core strength wasn’t strong enough and I needed a cushion to keep me upright. I also needed to properly work out how to clamp into my car, adjust my chair height at a level that was comfortable for long journeys. Sometimes it can feel awkward if you take time shuffling and stretching. But, trust me when I say - own it and take that time. It will be so worth it knowing that you’re 100% comfortable and your examiner will want you to be too. If you’re not comfortable mid exam - tell the examiner and you wont be penalised for pulling over and adjusting how you need to.
And finally - it’s easier said than done but take that pressure you’re putting on yourself off. When we’re disabled we can be hard on ourselves. I know I am. As most people pity me, I work 110% to prove them wrong. Which yes, is a great determination but this can also wear me out and burnout can happen easily. Or, even worse - I panic, flap and get things wrong. So, take a breathe, remember the examiner doesn’t feel sorry for you. They are there cheering you on and want all students to do their best. When we live in a world where there are so many barriers - try not to focus on ones that you think may be there. Think of the end result, all of the places you want to go and how amazing your life will be when you’ve passed. Although learning to drive has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done - it’s my proudest achievement too. So go out there and smash it!
If you need any help, complete the below form and a member of our team will contact you directly to help. Alternatively, speak to our team on Live Chat in the top right corner.