How An Individual With Special Needs May Obtain A Driver’s License, And How Guardianship Can Affect It

Some people with disabilities may be able to drive a motor vehicle and hold a valid driver’s license. Depending on their specific abilities and whether accommodations are available to address any challenges, they can apply for a license if they can pass all required tests.

Illinois Driver’s Licenses For Drivers With Special Needs

Illinois statutes prohibit issuing a license to a person who has a physical or mental disability which may keep them from safely operating a car UNLESS that person can provide a verified written statement from a competent medical specialist saying that the disability will not cause the driver to be a danger to public safety.

In other words, any person with a disability that could affect their ability to drive safely must disclose that disability and show they can safely drive based upon a medical report that the disability will not cause them to be unsafe. Also, if the person seeking the license needs some accommodations to drive safely, the state can issue a restricted license that places limitations on the driver to ensure safe vehicle operation.

A driver with special needs may require license restrictions such as:

  • The driver must use a prosthetic or adaptive device while driving
  • The vehicle must be modified to meet the needs of the driver, for example, hand brakes or special steering equipment might be added
  • The driver must wear glasses or may be prohibited from driving at night
  • If medical issues can affect driving abilities, the driver must sign a Medical Agreement and obtain regular medical care, take prescribed medications, and more. Often a doctor must verify that the medical condition will not affect the driver’s abilities. Without this verification, the license will not be granted.

Illinois laws are meant to protect everyone on the roadways while still granting the freedom to drive if the driver is legally able. If a person with disabilities doesn’t disclose relevant impairments or doesn’t report a change in their condition which could negatively affect their ability to drive, they can lose their license and the right to drive.

Legal Guardianships Can Affect Driver’s Licenses

Future planning for family members with disabilities often include establishing a guardianship to ensure proper care and financial oversight. While some forms of guardianship will not affect a person’s ability to hold a driver’s license, others may disqualify a person with special needs from driving, even if they had a valid license before the guardianship was established.

For example, a plenary guardianship authorizes the guardian to make all decisions for a legal ward with special needs. Under Illinois law, if a plenary guardianship is granted, the ward cannot apply for a driver’s license. If the ward already had a valid license, as soon as the plenary guardianship goes into effect, the license is considered void and the ward can’t apply for a driver’s license in the future.

Guardianship That Doesn’t Affect A Driver’s License

If the proposed ward with special needs wants to drive, a limited guardianship is a better choice. By limiting the guardian’s power to only medical decisions or maybe financial transactions, the ward’s ability to drive should not be affected. Some courts may be hesitant to grant a limited guardianship that empowers the guardian with more than a handful of powers, so be sure to clearly state what the guardian can and cannot do for the ward.

Don’t Make Important Decisions Alone

The State of Illinois is responsible to protect every driver and every person on Illinois highways. Here at Rubin Law, our goal is to protect our clients with special needs and their families. Contact us before you make any important decisions that could impact your loved one’s freedom and future.

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at or call 866-TO-RUBIN.