For individuals with permanent physical disabilities, the capacity to safely drive a car can hold great importance as it directly impacts on their independence and autonomy. To date, however, there have been limited policies around the prescription and installation of Vehicle Modifications (VMs).

Vehicle Modifications (VMs) are aids or adaptations that can be installed in a car to change the way that it is operated.

In the case of drivers with disabilities, such modifications could include altering a car's steering and accelerating/braking function, or equipping the vehicle with wheelchair access and space. Funding for VMs is made available through the Vehicle Modifications Subsidy Scheme.

VMs are prescribed to drivers with disabilities by Occupational Therapy Driving Assessors (OTDAs), independent healthcare specialists who are responsible for assessing an individual's physical and/or cognitive ability to drive before the final licensing decision is made by VicRoads.

Existing OTDA guidelines, however, do not include detailed information regarding specific VMs options, or any regulations regarding how VMs should be matched with specific driver disabilities and/or capabilities.

Given a recent upsurge in VM options, there were calls to develop clearer OTDA guidelines and education processes, to ensure that the VM prescription process is consistent and effective.

Dr Marilyn Di Stefano from La Trobe University led a research team to learn more about VMs and their use in Australia,with the ultimate goal of drafting some new, more detailed guidelines.

Status

Dr Stefano's research team delivered a report summarising the characteristics and experiences of Australians using VMs, the assessment and prescription process they undergo, and the impacts these VMs have not only on them, but also their families and carers.

The report also includes draft guidelines.

The guidelines are ready for further development, and have the potential to maximise opportunities for people with disabilities by influencing OTDA training, service delivery, quality assurance and funding into the future.