Whether you’re learning to drive for the first time or just acquired a disability and want to get back into it, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) might be able to help.
For many people with a disability, being able to drive safely is empowering and transformative - Some people even describe it as life-changing while others say it is lifesaving.
The NDIS will only fund driving lessons related to your goals, that represent value for money and relate to your disability support needs.
The scheme may also cover other related items, such as learning to use a modified vehicle or additional lessons if required due to your disability.
The NDIS will help modify vehicles to enable people living with disabilities to drive, but, be warned, this process could take some time.
Vehicle modifications mean changes to a vehicle, or the installation of equipment in it, to enable a participant to access it and, in some cases, operate it.
Vehicle modifications may be included in your NDIS plan where it is a reasonable and necessary support that will meet your needs and help you pursue your goals.
The NDIS does not generally fund a vehicle for a participant – but may fund modifications to a vehicle the participant regularly uses or would use to address their transport needs.
Independence Australia says making driving one of your goals is the first step towards getting behind the wheel.
The NDIS can help you achieve your goal with funding through capital and capacity building supports provided your disability is likely to affect your ability to drive or to learn to drive.
The NDIS may provide funding for vehicle modifications, access to allied health services like physiotherapists and occupational therapists and driver education and training.
According to Austroads Medical standards for licensing, an important early step towards getting your licence is a medical review.
It’s something most driver licensing authorities will require and can be completed by your doctor.
Next, according to Austroads Medical, depending on the outcome of your medical review, the driver licensing authority will likely request a practical driver assessment.
This assessment is designed to assess the impact of your disability on your driving skills. Therefore, these assessments are generally conducted by occupational therapists who are trained in driver assessment.
It is important to note that establishing whether a participant will be able to meet the requirements to be legally licenced to operate a motor vehicle is likely to take some time.
This process itself may be a reasonable and necessary support, involving assessment, driving lessons and trials of different modification technologies.
It would be usual for the participant to complete this process (if not currently a licenced driver) prior to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) approving a capital vehicle modification support (for operating the vehicle) in their plan.
The NDIA may fund support related or incidental to vehicle modifications: For example, driver assessments for the purpose of getting an endorsed licence or driving lessons where a participant needs lessons to establish the skills to use the modified vehicle.
Many providers can also help get you back in wheels - or behind the wheel for the first time - including Total Ability.
Total Ability’s passion is to enable people with a disability to safely achieve their love to drive and can help with hand controls, transfer and hoists, lifts and ramps.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Australian Gold Medallist Madison De Rozario is the face of Total Ability and says: “Taking preventative measures to protect my shoulders (by using the latest driving controls) is really important”.
“Whether you’re an athlete or not, if you use a wheelchair, you need to prolong their use. Your shoulders are a vital part of maintaining your independence in so many aspects of life.”
Don’t give up your dream of getting in a car and going for a spin - check your nearest Total Ability centre for modifications or lessons from a trained instructor.
There are other providers around the country who can help you achieve your goal of getting a licence, or modifying a vehicle - just ask your local NDIS office, or your provider, to steer you in the right direction!