A Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) policy which states that autistic people must disclose their diagnosis to the governmental agency, regardless of whether or not it affects their ability to drive, has sparked fury amongst the autistic community.
The Guardian writes that the change in policy was unannounced, and was made without seeking advice from autistic people, charities, or medical professionals. Previously, the rule had stated that it was only necessary to declare the diagnosis if it was seen to affect driving.
The page on the government’s website now states that autistic people must inform the government, threatening: “You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.”
But campaigners have noted that autism is not a medical condition; the National Autistic Society defines it as a “lifelong developmental disability.” Autistic people who have a drivers license have already proven their fitness to drive – by passing their driver’s test.
A petition has been started to challenge the government’s change, which says: “The neurodiverse community is concerned at being singled out for compulsory notification when other more unpredictable and dangerous conditions such as syncope and angina have not been. To be singled out in this way, without any evidence that we are collectively less safe than other road users, is an act of disability discrimination.”
In a statement to the Guardian, the DVLA said: “There have been no changes to autism spectrum disorder being a notifiable condition – this has been the case for a number of years. We have recently aligned the advice on our A–Z guide for the public with the advice for medical professionals.
“Notifying DVLA of a medical condition doesn’t mean a driver will automatically lose their licence. In fact more often than not they can continue to drive.
“We always keep our advice under review and work with our independent medical panels to do so.”Get your copy of UNITE Magazine