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11 August 2021

Learning to drive: How the NDIS can help.

Learning to drive can be a huge step towards independence. It can give you the 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.

Learning to drive and the NDIS.

Learning to drive is a common personal goal. Like any NDIS funded support, it needs to pass the “reasonable and necessary” test.

That means you’ll need to demonstrate that additional support for learning to drive relates to your disability support needs. And that because of a disability, you require additional support to learn to drive, compared with someone who doesn’t have a disability.

For the NDIS to provide funding, you’ll need an associated goal in your NDIS Plan. Learning to drive may be the goal, or it may be related to another goal, such as getting a job.

Support to learn to drive comes under Increased Social and Community Participation in your NDIS Plan.

Getting your learner’s licence.

Before you take to the streets, you will need a learner’s permit. If you need someone to help you study and pass the test, we recommend getting your NDIS Plan approved first so you can hire someone to support the learning process.

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 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 specific medical fitness requirements to be legally allowed to drive including:

  • Sensory inputs such as vision and hearing
  • Cognitive (or mental) functions 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. Examples include wearing glasses or driving a modified vehicle.

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

Occupational Therapy Driving Assessments.

Some NDIS participants need to undertake a Driving Assessment by an Occupational Therapist (OT). OT Driving Assessments are funded from your Improved Daily Living budget. Here is an outline of the process:

  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.
    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 so they can take control if you make a mistake.

Will the NDIS fund driving lessons?

The NDIS will only fund driving lessons related to your goals, that represent value for money and relate to your disability support needs.

The NDIS may also cover other related items, such as learning to use a modified vehicle or additional lessons if required due to your disability.

However, the NDIS will not usually fund driving supervision for you to accrue hours to pass a driving test.

Getting your P-plates.

Once you have the necessary skills, complete the required hours, and fill 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 has a dedicated section for setting and managing goals, making preparing for your NDIS Plan meeting easier.

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

Originally published 18 December 2019, updated 11th August 2021.


Further reading

How to set and achieve your goals.

NDIS Capacity Building budgets: A closer look

LATEST UPDATE: Transport funding changes for NDIS participants.