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18 December 2019

Learning to drive: How the NDIS can help.

Learning to drive can be a huge step towards independence. It can give you freedom to do things you want to do like visit friends or get to work without relying on someone else.

Here at Leap in HQ, we’ve been fielding quite a few questions about what the NDIS covers when it comes to learning to drive, so today we’ll take a look at how the NDIS can help you get on the road.

Before you get started.

For the NDIS to provide funding to help you learn how to drive, you’ll need to include learning to drive as a goal in your NDIS Plan. Support to learn to drive most commonly comes under the Increased Social and Community Participation budget of the Capacity Building supports categories.

If you need additional or specialised support to obtain your learner’s permit, we recommend getting your NDIS Plan approved first so funding can be included to help you study for and pass the test.

Learning to drive may take time and patience so including your goal in each NDIS Plan will ensure you obtain support for as long as it takes.

Learning to drive is a common personal goal. Like a lot of other NIDS supports, you must meet a number of requirements and the NDIA must deem the support “reasonable and necessary” to be included in your plan, so it’s important that you are prepared to demonstrate how your disability is likely to impact on your ability to drive and/or learn to drive. Read more on What is “reasonable and necessary”.

Getting your learner’s licence.

The age requirements and process for obtaining a learner’s licence differ between states so check with your local authority. You’ll be required to study and learn the road rules which may be through an online course or by reading a printed handbook.

Some states offer two options for getting a learner’s permit – an online test or an exam in a government office.

Medical fitness requirements.

All drivers need to pass certain medical fitness requirements to be legally allowed to drive including:

  • Sensory inputs such as vision and hearing
  • Cognitive (or mental) function such as attention, decision making and reaction time
  • Motor function including muscle power and coordination.

Some conditions require an Occupational Therapy Driving Assessment to determine your fitness for driving and whether any special conditions should apply (such as the need to wear glasses or drive a modified vehicle).

The assessment will also identify any supports or vehicle modifications that could help you to achieve your goal of getting on the road. More on Vehicle modifications.

Occupational Therapy Driving Assessments.

Usually funded out of the Improved Daily Living budget, there are several steps involved in an OT Driving Assessment. While not all participants need to go through this process, here is an outline of the process for those who do:

1. Get your learner’s permit.
You’ll need to have your learner’s before you can get behind the wheel.

2. Obtain a medical report.
The OT assessor requires a medical report from a doctor stating you are medically fit to drive plus a list of any current medical conditions and medications.

3. Off-road assessment.
This involves a review of your medical history, background, decision making ability and other skills related to driving. It also covers your knowledge of the road rules so if you’re a little rusty, it pays to brush up first! If the assessor is satisfied that you meet the requirements, you can start driving lessons.

4. Driving lessons.
The OT will provide lessons to help you learn the necessary skills to drive safely. Some instructors have dual control vehicles that enable them to take control if you make a mistake.

Some lessons may be covered by the NDIS, such as establishing the skills to use a modified vehicle or if you require additional lessons to learn to drive due to your medical condition. However, the NDIA generally won’t fund driving supervision in order for you to accrue hours to pass a driving test.

Getting your P-plates.

Once you have the necessary skills, completed the required hours and filled in your logbook, you can take the practical driving test for your P-plates (provisional licence).

Note that the length of time required to hold a learner’s permit before you can obtain your P-plates differs from state-to-state.

Leap in! can help.

If your goal is to improve your independence by learning to drive, the Leap in! app can help. The app (also now available on the Leap in! website) has a dedicated section for setting and managing goals which will make preparing for your NDIS Plan meeting easier.

Download the app from the App Store or Google Play or contact the Leap in! Crew on 1300 05 78 78 if you have any questions.