Disability and the theory test

We know how much getting your driving licence means to you. It’s an achievement that means ‘independence!’, ‘freedom!’ and ‘whoop! I’ve done it!’ To someone with a disability, getting your licence is all of these things too, but it’s often even sweeter because it can be a hard-won thing.

So, today’s (longer-than-usual) post is about what we do for people who need additional help to learn the driving theory and sit the theory test. We call this help an ‘accommodation’.

We’ll follow up this article very soon with another post about the practical test.

We want you to succeed

At DVSA, we want to give everyone who’s capable of being a safe and responsible driver the opportunity to pass their driving tests – both theory and practical. Regardless of your disability, if you can show us that you know your stuff when it comes to driving, we’re more than happy for you to take to the road.

Physical disability

The theory test is mainly about knowledge and learning, so you might think we only provide help for people with learning disabilities or communication challenges. But we also make accommodations for people with physical disabilities.

As well as making sure that access to our test centres is as easy as possible for people who have mobility problems, we can provide equipment to make operating a computer easier – such as specially adapted mice and foot pedals.

Learning your stuff

Before you sit your theory test, you have to learn the stuff you’re going to be asked about. That goes without saying. You’ll need to get hold of, and learn the contents of, the three books we base the theory test questions on.

These are the three books, and how we publish them to help people with various challenges:

1.    The Official Highway Code

  • iPhone app, with a voiceover feature that reads the words to you
  • eBook, with voiceover and ‘word-wise’, which explains some of the more difficult words in a simpler way

2.    The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills

  • book, with lots of photographs and diagrams to illustrate the words
  • eBook, with voiceover and word-wise

3.    Know Your Traffic Signs

  • book, with lots of clear pictures showing all of the traffic signs
  • eBook with voiceover and word-wise.

(There are other books to help you study for the motorcycle and LGV tests.)

You’ll also need something to help you practise answering questions, so DVSA publishes the theory test revision questions.

The revision questions are very much like the ones you’ll be asked in the actual test, and they cover exactly the same subjects, but they’re worded differently. This is so you can’t pass the test by just remembering the questions and answers – you have to understand what they’re about!

We’ve recently rewritten all of the revision questions to make them more accessible. They’re published in The Official DVSA Theory Test for Car Drivers.

These are the ways we publish The Official DVSA Theory Test for Car Drivers to help people with learning disabilities and communication challenges:

We also publish material to help you practise for the hazard perception part of the theory test:

Taking the theory test

So, you’ve done all your learning and now you’re ready to take your theory test. Please bear in mind that it may take time to put your accommodation in place, so it’s best to tell us what you’ll need when you book the test. We’ll do our very best to provide what you need, but it’s not always possible.

All the information you need about the theory test is here on GOV.UK
And these are the contact details if you want to email or talk to us about your needs in the theory test:

Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0300 200 1188 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm)

For people with hearing difficulties, there’s a dedicated email address: [email protected]
Contact us through this address and we’ll make the arrangements you need for a signer.

Everyone’s different

We understand that no two candidates are exactly alike, disability or no disability, so we encourage you to call us. If we get the chance to talk to you, or your representative, about exactly what you need, we’re much more likely to get it right. We may ask for some evidence of the disability – from someone like a doctor or a teacher – but we’ll do our very best to help.

Some of the help we most commonly give

We don’t claim to have all the answers yet, and we’re always happy to consider new adjustments for people taking the theory test, but here are some of the things we commonly offer:

  • If you haven’t made any arrangement about your needs at the booking stage, you can ask for either of these things when you arrive for your appointment:

o    voiceover (in English or Welsh)
o    British Sign Language on screen.

  • And any of these things can be booked in advance without providing evidence of need:

o    listening aid – hearing loop
o    lip speaker
o    signer.

This is what we can provide with evidence of particular need from a doctor or teacher:

  •  reader – a member of staff at the test centre will read out all the text on the screen
  •  recorder – a member of staff at the test centre will record your answers to the questions during the multiple-choice part of the test
  •  reader recorder – the above two accommodations combined
  •  extra time, up to a maximum of double the usual test time – the length of extra time we allow varies according to individual circumstances
  •  private environment/separate room.

Oral language modification

In some exceptional cases, if you have severe difficulties in understanding anything but the simplest language, we can offer an oral language modified (OLM) test.

In an OLM test, a specially qualified person will reword the theory test questions to make them easier for you to understand. They won’t be able to change the technical language that you should be expected to know for this subject, but the OLM can change sentence structure and other non-technical words and phrases.

You’ll still be expected to understand what’s being asked of you and to answer each question without being given an unfair advantage.

If you ask for an OLM test, you’ll need to provide evidence of severe difficulties in language comprehension.

If you have hearing difficulties and severe difficulties in language comprehension, we can arrange for an OLM specialist and a BSL signer to help you. Again, we’ll need to see evidence of this need before we can make the arrangements.

Home tests

In exceptional circumstances, and with evidence of need, we can also do the theory test in your home.

Get in touch

That’s a lot of info for a blog post, but I hope it’s helpful. You may have ideas about how we can give more help when providing the learning materials or carrying out the theory test for people with disabilities. We’d welcome those ideas, so please get in touch.

You can find out more about the ways we can help people with disabilities in the theory test here on GOV.UK
Or, if you need some advice on which learning materials would be best for you, call our expert publications team on 0333 200 2401.