Outrage spreads across the autism community in the United Kingdom after the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) established a change in policy that forces all autistic drivers to report their spectrum disorder diagnosis even if it doesn’t affect their ability to drive.
According to The Guardian, The National Autistic Society (NAS) has stepped forward to challenge this decision as it was made without communicating with anyone emerged in the autism world including charities, medical professionals, or a driver with autism.
The media outlet goes on to reveal it was a driver on the spectrum that contacted NAS after they discovered information on the DVLA website claiming drivers are required to disclose their diagnosis information.
Previously, drivers with autism were only required to inform the DVLA of their diagnosis if “it affects your driving.”
This is a standard the agency has in place for several different medical conditions. The final clause saying the report was necessary only if the diagnosis affects one’s ability to drive has since been removed. The website, however, does go on to reveal that drivers are at risk of a hefty fine and prosecution should they be involved in an accident without making the proper report of their diagnosis.
Many involved in the autism community are now calling to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate whether the organization has the right to make such a request of drivers on the spectrum.
While it goes without reason that a police officer knowing someone has autism when they pull them over would change how they approach them, some feel that it is overstepping the right to medical privacy.
“This is discrimination. I’m furious. I am going to follow this up next week,” Sophie Walker, former leader of the Women’s Equality party who has an autistic child of her own, exclaimed.
Many enraged U.K. drivers have taken to social media begging for help.
I'm now worrying for all the autistic police officers, ambulance drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, lorry divers, delivery drivers, and I hope we get clarification soon. I hope @Autism is on it hard and fast.
— Alyzande Renard ???? (@alyzande) March 2, 2019
Well we just found out DVLA reclassified autism as a need to declare condition last September without telling anyone.
We have all been driving illegally since Sept.
Even the police didn't know and they have autistic drivers.
Make sure he declares.
— OU Autistic Student ♿ #GTTO (@AutisticOu) March 1, 2019
@DavidTCDavies it is completely unacceptable for the DVLA to discriminate against autistic drivers. If anything, those with autism/aspergers are far more likely to follow rules of the road those those without, because they prefer things to be ordered and structured! https://t.co/C9mXsMMqHG
— Planes etc. (@PeterSharpe11) March 3, 2019
According to an EHRC spokesperson, making this type of policy change requires proper consultation and communication beforehand.
“Failure to do so may be a breach of the public sector equality duty,” the spokesperson added.
Jane Harris, director of external affairs and social change at NAS, said her organization is “concerned” by the request that autistic drivers should have to make themselves known.
https://t.co/XQsxMjIW55 DVLA snuck this one out without consultation. Affects millions of drivers/learners who have ASD.
— Bunty Curd (@bunty_curd) March 3, 2019
She also pointed out the fact that a driver with autism has to pass a driving test just like every other driver on the road.
“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.”
According to The Guardian, contacting the DVLA to report a medical condition does not necessarily cause the driver to lose their right to drive. In most cases, it is just viewed as a formality for the safety of everyone on the road – including the driver making the report.