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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

DVLA U-turns on autism disclosure policy after uproar

Date: 14/3/2019
Summary: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has reversed its decision to force people with autism to disclose their diagnosis, even if it does not affect their driving.

The DVLA apologised and amended its advice after the Guardian reported on its surprise change in policy on Sunday. But despite the change, many people with autism said they were still confused and angered.

“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,” said a DVLA spokesperson. “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 only need tell us if their condition could affect their driving.”

Had the DVLA, a public sector body, not backtracked, the National Autistic Society (NAS) had pledged to challenge the decision under the public sector equality duty, a provision of the Equality Act that says that protected groups should not be put at a disadvantage.

Tim Nicholls, head of policy at NAS, said that while it welcomed the DVLA’s clarification, there were still many outstanding questions.

“Autism is a lifelong disability and, if someone has passed their driving test, we can’t see how a subsequent autism diagnosis would change their ability to drive. In particular, we want to know exactly what autistic people need to do next – especially if they have already contacted the DVLA and been told to return a form or face a fine. We are calling on the DVLA to ensure no autistic driver could be fined due to the organisation’s mistake.”

“Unsurprisingly, many autistic people are getting in touch with us, as they remain deeply concerned about what will happen now, as they were told last week they could be fined for not disclosing their diagnosis,” he added. “The DVLA need to urgently issue clear guidance outlining the whole process to autistic people.”

Members of the autistic community said the DVLA’s actions had led to some turning down long-awaited appointments for a diagnosis.

“Some of us, driving safely for 30 years or more, had to fight to get on a waiting list for an autism diagnosis,” said one autistic woman. “We’ve been on that list for a year or more. Thanks to the DVLA, we’ve felt threatened into deleting our names and refusing a diagnosis and support.”

Others questioned what would happen to the information they have already sent in to the DVLA. Laura James, a writer with autism, said: “While I’m hugely grateful to the DVLA for responding so quickly and positively, I’m confused by the statement as it says the initial change of wording was a clarification of advice, but it was way more than that: it completely contradicted the initial advice by saying that all those with ASD and ADHD must inform the DVLA.

“If it were merely a ‘muddying of the waters’, why am I in the situation of having to return documents within 14 days or risk my licence being revoked?” she added.

Source: The Guardian

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