The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will cease subjecting people with disabilities to unnecessary driving tests and medical exams, under a consent decree approved June 10 in federal court.
In a lawsuit filed in February 2014, Disability Rights North Carolina accused the DMV of a rash of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act limitation that such safety requirements be “necessary…and based on actual risks, not mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about individuals with disabilities.”
Specifically, the lawsuit targeted the DMV’s requirement that people automatically undergo a second examination – both when obtaining and renewing licenses – if they have “apparent physical disabilities” or use hand breaks or other vehicle modifications. In most instances, applicants have to pay for these repeat examinations out of pocket.
Other burdensome requirements for these applicants include additional documentation and, in some cases, “behind the wheel assessments” with occupational therapists.
The DMV initially sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, on the basis that these steps were necessary to determine the applicants eligibility for the license. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina denied the DMV’s motion in September 2014, prompting nearly two years of settlement negotiations.
Under the consent decree, the DMV will stop using disabilities as an automatic basis for repeat examinations. It must also provide avenues to appeal and challenge medical reviews and other driving restrictions, as well as allow drivers access to their Medical Review Program records.
“The DMV has recognized it was time to close the book on the way things have been done,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC, said in a news release [PDF]. “Going forward, North Carolina drivers with disabilities can expect to be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other drivers. Most importantly, they will have legal recourse if their rights are being violated.”
Disability Rights North Carolina and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in North Carolina and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.