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The Special Needs Driving Test

Special Needs and the Theory Tests

Theory Test if a driving candidate as learning difficulties, problems with reading or writing, or if they have required additional help with When you book your Theory Test you should say if you’ve got special needs. In many cases, special arrangements can be made to help you during the test.

If you have learning difficulties, problems with reading or writing, or have required additional help with schoolwork or taking examinations at school or college, then you may be able to get help with the Multiple Choice Theory Test; this may be:

  • Extra time to take the test.

  • Voiceover via the computer – (English or Welsh voiceover using a head set is available for any test candidate – no proof of special needs is required).

  • One to one reader/recorder – where a person, provided by Pearson Vue (the company that administers the theory test), will read the questions on the computer screen word for word and then record the answer given by the candidate (they are not permitted to explain the meaning of the English language).

  • Oral Language Modification (OLM) – in exceptional cases, where the candidate has severe difficulty understanding the meaning of the language used for the test, the reader can explain the meaning rewording the questions to make them easier to understand; technical terms (e.g. anti-lock braking system) may not be reworded.

  • No special allowance is made for the Hazard Perception Test.

To apply for Special Needs Theory Test – if extra time is needed, if a one to one reader/recorder is needed or if an OLM test is required – the easiest way is to email your details to “DVSA/Pearson Vue Customer Care Team” (name, address, contact phone no, and driver number – from licence) and request a Special Needs Test. Attach proof of the Special Needs – a letter from School / College (stating what Special Needs provision was made when taking tests/exams) or from GP (detailing the medical condition and Special Needs requirements) on headed paper should be sufficient.

Agreement has also been reached with the British Dyslexia Association to accept the report from the on-line screening test “Spot Your Potential” as proof of Special Needs – this would be suitable for those out of education or those who have not been formally diagnosed.

For OLM tests evidence of severe difficulties in language comprehension will be required. This evidence would normally state that OLM has been required when taking exams at school or college and would take the form of a statement of educational needs from an educational professional or a report showing comprehension scores (which would need to equate to below 8 years of age) to warrant the service. For those out of formal education a report from any educational establishment attended or from a medical professional explaining the severe difficulties in language comprehension will be considered.

DVSA/Pearson Vue will consider the application and will then confirm back in writing that they have agreed to the request, this letter will give a reference number that must be quoted when booking the test. The best way to book the test is to contact the Customer Care Team by phone, quoting the reference and requesting extra time, a reader/recorder or an OLM test, whichever is needed.

If a reader/recorder or OLM test is needed the test will take place in a side room so that there is no interference or distraction from other people taking the test and so they are not distracted. If no side room is available then the test centre could be closed off for the duration of the test, in this case the waiting time may be longer.

If any specific requirements are needed due to physical disability (e.g. wheelchair access to the building or height adjustable desk, if a bespoke design of computer mouse is needed or if the computer needs to be configured for mouse operation rather than touch screen) these should be arranged when booking the test.


TEL: 0300 200 1188 Fax: 0330 200 1177 email customercare@pearson.com

British Dyslexia Association:

Tel: 0845 251 903 Fax: 0845 251 9005 web: www.bdadyslexia.org uk


Switchboard: 0333 405 4555

Helpline: 0333 405 4567

Special Needs and the Practical Tests

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 might be you still have to take the same driving test as every other test candidate. Special provision may be made for people with a hearing difficulty, physical disability or learning difficulty to allow additional time to be allocated. This ensures the examiner has time to communicate with candidates with hearing difficulties (using written notes, with the aid of lip reading or sign language – with an interpreter if necessary), has time to discuss any physical disability and adaptations that may be needed and has time to discuss any special requirements that would help to overcome learning difficulties or special educational needs. The additional time allocation would also allow the pupil to take a break during the course of the test if, for example, fatigue is an issue. Extra time allocation does not mean the test candidate will be driving for any longer or doing any additional tasks but merely allows extra time at the start of the test and allows for the possibility of taking a break part way through the test if it is necessary.

The practical test can be taken in either a manual or an automatic car depending on your needs; if you pass your test in an automatic you will be restricted to only driving vehicles with automatic transmission and your licence will be coded accordingly. Physical disability may mean you need an automatic but people with special educational needs or hearing difficulties may be perfectly capable of driving a standard manual car.

If adaptations are required the examiner will record the restriction codes required on the Pass Certificate these codes will appear on your full driving licence (on the rear of the plastic card).

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 and the booking is then made. A short but useful leaflet “Your needs and the driving test” is produced by Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

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: www.gov.uk/book-driving-test

If in doubt book by phone and discuss your special needs with the booking centre: DVSA Driving test booking centre: 0300 200 1122.

It may also be advisable to discuss the special needs requirements with the test centre shortly before the test date to ensure that the information provided when the test was booked has been passed on to the examiner. Contact details for the test centre being used can be found on the booking confirmation.

Information originally supplied by
The Association of Disability Driving Instructors.

The Practical Driving Test on the day

If you have a physical disability

Any “special needs” must be declared when making the practical test booking and the advice is to also notify the driving test centre in advance of the test to provide details of any special needs requirements, as your instructor, I will do this. It's advised that it would be useful for the ADI to sit in the back on the test in case any issues arise during the drive; they also stated that the ADI could offer support to the examiner if necessary, if it was felt that advice was needed about the “special needs” requirements.

It should be noted that for the new driving test it is being proposed that the “show me” questions are to be asked on the move. For those with a physical disability requiring the use of adapted controls it is unlikely that all the secondary/ancillary controls needed to complete the “show me” questions would be able to be safely operated on the move; hopefully the advice given to the student during training would be that if a control cannot safely be operated on the move, they should stop in a safe place and operate the control with the vehicle stationary. If the driver does need to stop to operate the controls needed for any of the “show me” questions it is vital that this information is declared when booking the practical test and notified to the test centre in advance of taking the test.

Wheelchair users it is recommended you take your W/chair, but there is no need or requirement for you to go into the waiting room the examiner will make reasonable accommodation.

The driving examiner will give you more time to enter and exit the vehicle and fully understand your disability. The actual test content will not be any different.

Although most examiners will make accommodation on "show me tell me" and not ask for the bonnet to be opened, but if they do you can ask for instructor to assist you.

The driving examiner will also need additional time, to ensure he lists any adaptation or modified driving techniques you use and list any restrictions that will apply to your licence e.g.

If you have hearing difficulties
the examiner will discuss what will happen by using written notes at the start of the test if you are deaf or have hearing difficulties. They will also look at you to help you lip read what they are saying if you find that helpful.

The examiner will usually give directions to you as hand signals. These will be explained and shown to you using written cards before your test starts.

Taking an interpreter with you
you can bring your own interpreter for your practical driving test if you use sign language. They must be at least 16 years old. Your approved driving instructor can be your interpreter. You will need to arrange your own interpreter and pay any fees that they charge.

Taking the eyesight test if you have reading difficulties
at the start of the practical driving test, you will have an eyesight test. The examiner will ask you to read the number plate on a parked vehicle.

You can write down what you see on the number plate if you have learning difficulties, any difficulty specking or if people have trouble understanding your speech.

You can also use a Letter Number, pointing chart if you have trouble with writing.