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Can deaf people learn to drive?

deaf people learn to drive

Whilst there are some disabilities that mean you are not able to drive in the UK, being deaf does not mean you are not allowed to get behind the wheel. 

Whether you have been deaf since birth, or if you have developed hearing loss as you’ve got older, you can rest assured that you are absolutely allowed to drive. Here we will talk you through the common questions about driving whilst being hard of hearing.  

How does a deaf person learn to drive?

There are a number of ways you can learn to drive if you are hard of hearing. Whilst some learners will seek driving instructors who are deaf themselves, this may not be something that is readily available in your area. 

Luckily if you wish to learn with someone who can communicate with you in British Sign Language (BSL), you can seek out a driving school that tailors lessons with deaf learner drivers. 

This is not the only way you can learn though. You can go through the traditional method of contacting a local instructor, especially if passing your test quickly is something that appeals to you. Before booking any lessons it’s best to check if the instructor has previously taught any deaf learners before, to help you feel more at ease.

How does a deaf person take a driving test?

Unfortunately during your driving test, the examiner will not communicate with you in BSL. However, they will have had training in how to examine deaf learners and you do have a few options as to how you would like to take your test. 

Some deaf learners will opt to take the test with just the examiner, but you can choose to have an interpreter with you in the car. They will have to be at least 16 years old, but you can choose anyone you wish to translate for you. 

Using a friend or family member is a great way to help you feel more at ease when taking your test.   

If you do choose to go it alone, your examiner will explain how the test will work before you get in the car. They will use written notes and if you lipread, they’ll look at you as they talk. They will also take you through the different direction signs they will give throughout the practical test.

How do I take the theory test if I am deaf?

deaf people learn to drive

When you book your theory test, you will need to inform the DVSA that you are unable to hear or if you are partially deaf. 

The test itself does not include any audio, neither in the 50 multiple choice questions or in the hazard perceptions sections. If you’re comfortable taking the test in the standard format you are allowed to do so, but if you prefer you are able to request to take the test in BSL. You will see a video on screen of someone signing alongside the questions, can have an interpreter sit with you and sign the questions, request a lip speaker, or use a hearing loop. 

Do I need to wear hearing aids when I’m driving? 

There is no legal obligation to wear hearing aids when you are driving, even if you usually wear them. Whilst driving is mostly a visual task, it can be handy to wear them to help you with identifying any noises such as car horns or sirens from emergency vehicles.

Should I wear hearing aids to drive? 

deaf people learn to drive

As mentioned previously it is not a legal obligation to wear hearing aids, but if you usually wear them day-to-day, it may be a good idea to do so when behind the wheel to help with some challenges you may face. 

Your hearing aid will help you hear certain sounds such as your engine in case it is making a funny noise, your revs for changing gear instead of taking your eye off the road to check the rev counter in a manual; and the sound of motorbikes. 

Whilst all drivers should remain vigilant at all times, sometimes motorbikes can appear from nowhere, especially when in traffic. Their engines are generally louder than cars and some bikers rev their engines to alert drivers of their presence. 

Are there any modifications I can make to my car to make driving easier?

Absolutely, you can make modifications to adapt your car as a disabled driver. One alteration that is popular amongst deaf people is to add an extra interior mirror to help you interact with passengers to help you lip read with the person sitting in the front passenger seat.

Does the DVLA need to know that I’m deaf?

The DVLA does not need to know that you are hard of hearing or deaf, unless you go on to get a bus, lorry or coach driving licence. 

This is because there are no restrictions on deaf people driving cars in the UK. The only time when you need to let the DVLA know about being deaf or hard of hearing is when you’re booking your theory and practical tests. 

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