Helping disabled people learn to drive can sometimes be challenging but it is ultimately a very rewarding experience, with huge amounts of job satisfaction and a real sense of giving something back to society. Seeing any student smile when they realise they’ll be able to drive is a joy. When it is someone disadvantaged who has to use adapted controls to achieve that goal of being independently mobile, it is truly priceless. Finding an effective way of communicating with a profoundly deaf pupil is an achievement in itself, but then using this new communication skill to help them learn to drive and pass their test will make you feel that you have succeeded beyond your wildest expectations, and imagine how your pupil feels! Finally, helping the student with learning difficulties to navigate the pitfalls of studying for the theory test and then preparing them for actually taking the test can be a minefield, with plenty of potentially explosive scenarios. I remember so well a pupil who had never passed any sort of exam or test in his life proudly showing me his theory test pass certificate, framed and hanging in pride of place on the wall in the front room wall; a major achievement for him that sent me home feeling an incredible buzz from a seemingly unbelievable success of being able to help him!

The Map

A Specialist Disability Driving Instructor is one that is trained and experienced in providing tuition for some or all of these people; those with physical disabilities, with specific learning difficulties/special educational needs and those with hearing difficulties. That Specialist Disability Driving Instructor could so easily be you. Some ADIs start teaching people with special needs out of necessity, often because nobody else was available. They may have some basic knowledge picked up from family and friends, possibly knowing a deaf person and developing the communication skills that can then be used in-car, or learning how to interact with a child with learning difficulties/developmental disorders. These additional skills can also help in teaching people with these conditions to drive, however specific training courses are available for ADIs wishing to specialise in disability tuition and these provide the opportunity to further develop the necessary skills in all the required areas; these would also undoubtedly improve your general teaching abilities too.

The Expedition

You do not always require a specially adapted, automatic transmission car for such teaching. A standard manual car, especially for those with hearing difficulties or specific learning difficulties can be fine, though an automatic may prove an easier option. However, people with a physical disability frequently need to drive in an automatic and often need further adaptations. A simple bolt on adaptation may be all that is needed e.g. a steering ball, indicator cross over extension, handbrake easy release or pedal extensions. However, if the physical restrictions are more severe, permanently fitted adaptations may be required such as hand controls to replace foot pedals, but these rarely get in the way of the standard controls being operated conventionally by able bodied pupils taking lessons in the same car. As with all new areas or types of teaching, there will always be some investment needed financially, but costs are affordable; the increased demand for your services will soon cover this outlay, and the rewards, both financially and personally, make it very worthwhile. What’s more, there really is a high level of need and demand throughout the UK for ADIs to teach the less able in society, providing you with a new, rich revenue stream, continuing professional development and an improved level of job satisfaction.

Striking Gold

Over the next few months, I will map out what this new route in driver training involves, provide you with the facts and figures and give you a clear view of what this truly satisfying journey will require. We are also providing practical taster workshops at the ADINJC & Intelligent Instructor Conferences & Expos (details to follow). So please join me, become enabled and do so much more with your ADI badge. More info: Disability Driving Instructors is a not for profit Community Interest Company – 0844 800 7355/disabilitydrivinginstructors.com/Email: admin@disabilitydrivinginstructors.com.