DVLA backtrack following criticism over autism advice

Advice on the DVLA website relating to autistic drivers has now been reverted to its original text, following angry criticism levelled at the Agency for changing their disclosure requirements relating to autistic drivers without consultation with or communication to relevant groups.

The DVLA website advice has been amended to instruct drivers to inform the DVLA if they have an autistic spectrum disorder “and it affects your driving” – a requirement that is standard for many conditions.

Removal of that final clause sparked concern and confusion when it came to light over the weekend, after an autistic person contacted The National Autistic Society (NAS) to inform them of it. The requirement that drivers must disclose if they have an autistic spectrum disorder irrespective of whether it impacted on their ability to drive had not been communicated to any autism charities or medical professionals.

Jane Harris, director of external affairs and social change at the NAS, said: “We are very concerned by the suggestion that people should inform the DVLA after being diagnosed as autistic.

“Autism is a lifelong disability and if someone has passed their driving test, we can’t see how an autism diagnosis would change their ability to drive.”

The removal of the clause had the potential to affect thousands of drivers across the UK, with the threat of a £1000 fine and prosecution if they were involved in an accident without reporting their diagnosis.

Following calls for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate, the DVLA tweeted last night:

“In our attempt to clarify the advice for drivers with autism spectrum disorders we’ve clearly muddied the waters and we’re very sorry for that. We have amended the advice on GOV.UK for both drivers and medical professionals which make it clear that a driver who has an autism spectrum disorder need only tell us if their condition could affect their driving.”

Many of those affected feel that an apology does not go far enough to atone for the undue stress and anxiety caused by the original rewording. It has also been pointed out that the apology makes no mention of drivers with ADHD, a separate condition.

The NAS have stated that they will be contacting the DVLA to finalise outstanding details and questions.

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