Find a specialist driving instructor

Special needs and the practical driving test

What adjustments are made by the examiner when someone with a hearing difficulty, physical disability or with a learning difficulty is taking a practical driving test?

No matter how serious your disability may be, you still have to take the same driving test as every other test candidate but, If you have a physical disability, a specific learning difficulty or a hearing difficulty, reasonable adjustments (or accommodations) may be made by the examiner to help you when you take your practical driving test.

  • The eyesight test (reading a vehicle number plate at a distance of 20 metres):

Black letters/numbers on a yellow background (a rear number plate) are ordinarily easier to distinguish by most dyslexic candidates. You may also read back to front or in a non-uniform order and may have difficulty distinguishing between certain images, for example B and 8, D and O, 5 and S. You may find it easier to write down the letters and numbers rather than reading them out – these are deemed to be reasonable adjustments. (Alternatively use a printed sheet to point at the numbers/letters).

Deaf candidates may also need to write down the letters rather than read them out. The ADI or independent interpreter may need to assist with the instructions for this, the examiner or the interpreter is permitted to remove face coverings (if worn) if the candidate needs to lip read.

Disabled candidates with mobility difficulties may remain in the car to read the number plate (examiners may advise where to park to facilitate this).

  • The ‘tell me’ question (before the start of the test):

The DVSA  state that “where a special need prevents a candidate from carrying out a practical activity for the ‘tell me’ question (e.g. physical disability making walking round the car or opening the bonnet difficult) they should be asked to demonstrate understanding by oral explanation”.

For Deaf candidates, they have agreed that the ADI could act as an interpreter for the initial discussion and for the ‘tell me’ question at the start of the test

  • General communication and interaction between the examiner and the candidate:

The DVSA has stated, for candidates with learning difficulties or spectrum and processing disorders, that “where a spectrum condition (or special need) is declared or apparent and providing the test is not undermined, the examiners should, wherever possible adapt their approach to accommodate the candidate”. “Examiners should ensure their instructions are absolutely clear…. Candidates should not be given any grounds to complain of being flustered or uncertain”. If they are aware a candidate has dyslexia or dyspraxia the examiner should tactfully establish if it affects their driving and if any adjustments are necessary. This may include confirming directions by pointing or using hand signals.

  • The Independent Driving Exercise (following sat-nav directions or destinations on road signs):

The DVSA have stated that if the examiner is made aware that a candidate has a special need they will ask the candidate which is their more able method, either following directions from the sat-nav or following traffic signs; if the examiner is aware of this prior to the test commencing they would be able to bring both a sat-nav and the peripherals to cover either scenario.

This should apply to those with dyslexia or other learning difficulty and to Deaf candidates; if Deaf candidates are following road signs any change of destination may require the candidate to pull up at the side of the road to communicate the new destination.

If the sat nav is to be used the examiner should be able to change the colour, contrast and volume but if you need to change the sat nav layout your instructor will need to set up a meeting with the test centre manager before the test to discuss what settings you need. On the day of the test you should arrive early with a copy of the agreed setting requirements to give to the examiner.

  • ‘Show me’ questions (on the move during the test):

Candidates should be expected to carry out the ‘show me’ question on the move but reasonable consideration must be adopted in cases of disability and if adaptations don’t allow candidates to operate windows or demisters on the move, and they are unable to do so, then an alternative question should be asked.

It was agreed in Dec 2017 that although the headlight on/off switch is considered to be a safety critical secondary control and should be able to be operated on the move at any time, if this cannot be safely carried out the lights could be switched on at the start of the drive and switched off at the end; this removes the need for operating the switch on the move, an alternative question should also be asked in this case. It was emphasised that DVSA will only ask a ‘show me’ question which they think the candidate can demonstrate safely whilst on the move.

Notification of special need requirements must be made on application for the test if accommodations are required; this is to allow for DVSA to plan for any necessary reasonable adjustments. The driving instructor is advised to confirm this at the test centre before the test date to ensure the notification has been received and accommodations can be made.

When booking a practical driving test anyone with a hearing difficulty, physical disability or learning difficulty must state the details on the booking form or declare them when booking by phone, details of any special needs will then be recorded and passed on to the driving test examiner. A decision is made as to whether an “extra time” allocation is required is made by DVSA and the booking is then made.

Extra time allocation may be required:

  • If you are deaf or have severe hearing difficulties.
  • If you have learning difficulties or special educational needs.
  • If you are in any way restricted in your movements.
  • If you have any physical disability.
  • If you have any missing limbs.
  • If your medical condition prevents conventional operation of the standard controls of a manual car.

Practical driving tests can be booked on line at:

If in doubt book by phone and discuss your special needs with the booking centre:

DVSA Driving test booking centre: 0300 200 1122.

Special needs accommodations may be required by test candidates with physical disabilities, specific learning difficulties or hearing difficulties. An advice sheet for driving instructors explaining the accommodations that have been agreed by DVSA is available by clicking on Sp needs accoms – advice to ADIs p-test

Disability Driving Instructors 29.09.2022