My main barrier to driving was the instability in my right wrist which can cause sudden subluxation or partial dislocation when I put pressure through it. It didn’t feel safe steering while turning so I decided steering left-handed was the way to go.
Self-assessment and research
I wasn’t eligible for the Motability scheme, but I found their guide to different adaptations (PDF link) useful and easy to understand. This gave me some idea of how I would be able to adapt a car and what I’d need- automatic transmission, a steering spinner, and some form of indicator adaptation.
Under normal circumstances I’d have liked to have gone to an assessment centre and had the chance to try things out in person, but it was too difficult with lockdown. Instead I looked at product catalogues and videos online to get some idea of how things would work.
I had a full driving licence, although I had stopped driving since I became disabled through injury. To get driving again, I had to declare my disability to the DVLA as I would now need adjustments to drive safely. Neuroma and wrist instability aren’t pre-defined diagnoses on the government website, so I had to fill out a form for upper limb disabilities. I had to provide my doctors’ contact info, a brief explanation of how I’m affected and the vehicle adjustments I would need to drive safely. The form had to be sent off by post with my old driving licence.
Wait time: 6 weeks
My licence was amended and returned to me, complete with new restriction codes. I was allowed to keep driving! The new restriction codes stipulate that I can only drive a car which is automatic with steering adaptations.
I wanted a smallish car that would still be safe and reliable. It had to be automatic which really narrowed down the options. Luckily I had some great family advice and found a second hand Honda Jazz that ticked all the boxes: automatic, light steering and good enough visibility for a short driver.
Car insurance declaration
When buying car insurance there’s a section to declare any modifications that have been made to the car. The example given will be something like a bigger exhaust but this can include aids for disabled drivers. My insurer (Admiral) said I did have to notify them, and I was able to do this easily over their webchat.
Choosing and fitting steering aids
This was easier said than done, especially during a pandemic. It needed its own article, coming later this week.
Summary of my steps:
Needs assessment and research
Declared disability to DVLA (6 weeks for a decision)
Bought a car
Declared adaptations to the insurer
Bought and fitted adaptations
I’m good to go!
If in doubt, talk to the DVLA, or call an adaptations centre for advice