Driving and disabilities
Having access to transport is an important part of life. The benefits include:
- Helping us get out and about.
- Keeping us connected with others.
- Assist us to live more independently.
Your disability or medical condition may mean that you need to have your vehicle modified so you can drive (or be a passenger) in safety and comfort.
You might also need to confirm that you are medically fit to drive or have a driving assessment.
Who gets their vehicle modified?
- If they want to drive but can't operate the medals due to lower-body impairment.
- If they are in a wheelchair and can't access the vehicle through a regular door.
- If they have impairment in their arms and can't use the standard hand controls.
Types of modifications
To see what vehicles modifications look like, watch our video featuring Kevin O'Leary, an occupational therapist and vehicle modifications expert.
Just as every person is unique, each vehicle modification is also different. There is no standard vehicle modification because every disabled person has different requirements.
But there are some common modifications. These include:
- hand controls
- left-foot accelerators
- wheelchair stowage equipment
- handbrake devices
- hoists and ramps
Most modifications are for people who either need to drive the vehicle, or travel as a passenger.
What does an assessor/occupational therapist do during an assessment?
The cost of vehicle modifications
Fitting out a vehicle with a hoist and restraint systems can cost more than $20,000.
But simpler modifications, such as adding hand controls, are much cheaper.
For more information about funding for vehicle modifications, go to our page Funding for vehicle modifications.
Are there any restrictions to what can be carried out?
To ensure that modifications are carried out safely and to a high standard, the New Zealand Transport Agency has some rules about vehicle modifications. There are guidelines about:
- What modifications can be made to private vehicles.
- Inspection and certifications required for certain modifications.
- Who can carry out modifications.
Can my vehicle be modified?
Depending on the nature of your disability, you may be eligible for funding for vehicle modifications through the Ministry of Health or ACC.
You will need to have an assessment carried out to see if you are eligible.
How can I get an assessment?
The New Zealand Transport Agency recommends that if you have a physical disability then it is beneficial to get advice from an Occupational Therapist (OT).
To carry out an assessment of your needs in order to claim for modification funding, the OT must be trained in driver, passenger and vehicle assessments.
The OT can:
- Test your driving ability.
- Give advice on the controls and adaptations you need for access, seating and to drive safely and in comfort.
- Evaluate your muscle strength and range of movement.
For a referral to an OT, talk to your doctor or health professional, District Health Board or Needs Assessment and Service Coordination (NASC) team.
What type of vehicle aids could help me?
Equipment is available to help you or your passenger get in and out of a car more easily and safely.
Types of equipment available include:
- transfer boards
- portable ramps
- leg lifters
- car handy bars
- swivel cushions
We recommend that you talk to an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist before you buy equipment.
Confirm you are medically fit to drive
You need to confirm that you are medically fit each time you apply for, renew or replace your driver licence.
If you have a disability or medical condition you may have to:
- present a medical or eyesight certificate
- have a medical driving assessment.
For a full list of disabilities or medical conditions that may affect your ability to drive safely visit the New Zealand Transport Agency website.
The New Zealand Transport Agency website also has information on:
Some government and lottery funding is available to help disabled people with the cost of modifying a vehicle or buying a vehicle to modify.