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Supporting people affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Driving issues

You will find masses of information for disabled people on the legalities and practicalities of driving on the www.gov.uk website. Also, check out Disabled Motoring UK  for information on everything from insurance, to blue badges, to the driving test.

If you qualify for the highest rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, or the enhanced mobility component of Personal Independence Payments, then you will also qualify for:

Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) exemption
Ask the Benefits Agency to provide you with an Exemption Certificate, and present this to your local Post Office (which usually deals with Road Tax applications) when taxing your car, together with your vehicle’s registration document, insurance and MOT. They will make the necessary changes, and provide you with a receipt to prove that your car is taxed. Remember, no tax disk is issued anymore.  For people who only receive standard rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payments, a 50% reduction is possible, but this can only be obtained direct from the DVLA – check the relevant page on the www.gov.uk for details.

The Motability Scheme
If you are getting the higher rate of the Mobility Component of the DLA or the enhanced rate ofmokka Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (or the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement) you may be able to get help on preferential terms through Motability with leasing a suitable car, including wheelchair-accessible vehicles. There is also limited financial assistance available for advance payments or adaptations.

There are other advantages to having those benefits, like free entry to the congestion zone in London (for tax-exempt cars), free use of certain toll bridges etc.

If you are having difficulty driving, and feel that your driving ability should be reassessed, contact Driving Mobility, the organisation for assessment centres across the country. This is a network of 17 independent organisations covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offering professional, high quality information, advice and assessment to people who have a medical condition or are recovering from an accident or injury which may affect their ability to drive, get into or out of a motor vehicle.

There are a wide range of adaptations available for your car. Rica is a good place to start your research. It has excellent, impartial guides on everything from getting in and out of a car, how to lift a wheelchair in and out, and driving adaptions.

Driving and CMT: the law and insurance
A diagnosis of CMT means that you must tell the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Drivers Medical Group. You must also tell them if your CMT gets worse or if you have any changes in your physical abilities.

People with a neurological condition, such as CMT, must fill in form CN1 and give written consent to DVLA for them to contact your doctor for information concerning your medical condition. On the www.gov.uk website, CMT is classified under the ‘peripheral neuropathy’ section and the form can be downloaded from there. Failure to inform DVLA is a criminal offence that may be subject to a fine of up to £1000.

Most people with CMT, when surrendering their licence for any reason, or when applying initially, are now being given a three year licence.  This does necessitate form filling every three years, and a usually very long wait for the new licence to be issued, but is not generally a problem – you are safe to drive whilst the new licence is being prepared.  Occasionally DVLA may issue a licence subject to earlier medical review (one, two or three years) or restrict driving to automatic vehicles or vehicles with adaptations. The taking of certain drugs may also have an impact on your ability to drive.

Insurance companies will take the view that insurance cover is invalid if a medical condition has not been declared to themselves and DVLA.

Blue Badge
The Blue Badge scheme provides help with parking for ‘people with severe walking difficulties who travel either as drivers or passengers. It is recognised, with variations, throughout the European Union, and you may even find that your badge is also usable in other countries like the USA, Canada and Austrabluebadgelia – see if you can find out the situation before you go abroad. If in doubt, take the badge with you anyhow – you might be lucky!

The purpose of the Blue Badge is to allow people with walking difficulties to park within 30 metres of their destination. However, some other benefits of the badge include:

  • exemptions in some cases from limits on parking times (very rare outside London)
  • parking for up to three hours on yellow lines (unless there are loading or unloading restrictions)
  • exemption from the Congestion Charge in London if you have registered with Transport for London in advance of your visit and your car is registered with the DVLA as your “primary mobility vehicle” and/or they have given you exemption from paying road tax.

There are certain places where the Blue Badge does not operate, among them certain city centres (including some London boroughs), some airports and private roads.

You may qualify for a Blue Badge if you:

  • get the higher rate of the Mobility Component of the DLA (or get the War Pensioners Mobility Supplement), or 8 points or more on the “Moving Around” criteria of PIP (in other words, standard or enhanced rates)
  • have a severe disability in both upper limbs and cannot turn the steering wheel even if the wheel is fitted with a turning knob
  • have a permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty walking

To get a Blue Badge you need to contact your local social services department, or search for more information on www.gov.uk.  However, each local council appears to have its own criteria, and if you don’t qualify due to receiving PIP or DLA, it is increasingly difficult to get a Blue Badge in some areas. Don’t be afraid to challenge the decision, and be prepared to back up your case with letters from your consultant – and anyone else you can think of.

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