7. Vehicle modifications
Vehicle modifications include changes to a vehicle, or the installation of equipment in a vehicle that enable a participant to gain access to a vehicle and in some cases operate the vehicle. This can include enabling the participant to:
- get in and out of the vehicle with or without a wheelchair;
- carry their wheelchair in or on the vehicle without lifting;
- be transported safely whilst seated in their wheelchair; or
- drive the vehicle with specialised controls or other adaptions.
For the NDIA to consider funding vehicle modifications to enable a participant to drive, the participant must have an endorsed license for that vehicle at the time of request, or be assessed as having the capacity to obtain an endorsed license by:
- an evaluation by a medical practitioner using the national ‘Assessing Fitness to Drive’ medical standards;
- a driving assessment by a driver trained Occupational Therapist; or
- a driving assessment by the state licensing authority.
The NDIA must be satisfied, amongst other matters, that the vehicle modification being considered represents value for money in that the costs of the support are reasonable relative to both the benefits achieved and costs of alternative support (section 34(1)(c)).
When determining whether vehicle modifications represent value for money, the NDIA will specifically consider:
- whether the proposed vehicle modifications are the best alternative for effectively achieving the participant’s driving or transport needs;
- whether the participant’s specific needs can be achieved using a less costly alternative;
- the cost of vehicle modifications compared to the cost of other funded transport supports over the life of the vehicle. For example, modified taxi fares, modified vehicle hire or personal assistance; and
- the suitability of the type of vehicle proposed to be modified in terms of:
- whether the vehicle is of an age, type and mileage that is cost effective to modify relative to the cost of the modifications, anticipated use and expected longevity of the modified vehicle; and
- whether the vehicle is of a type that will require the development of a unique engineering solution.
Note, vehicles less than five years old and under 80,000kms are generally considered suitable to modify. However, older vehicles and those with higher mileage may still be considered. In these cases, evidence of road worthiness and the expected lifespan of the vehicle will need to be provided.
Also, the NDIA may fund modifications that exist on a second hand vehicle at a rate commensurate with the depreciated value of the modifications.
The NDIA must also be satisfied that the provision of the support will be, or is likely to be, effective and beneficial for the participant, having regard to current good practice (section 34(1)(d)).
Therefore, before funding vehicle modifications the NDIA will also consider the effectiveness of vehicle modifications having consideration to:
- whether the modifications have been prescribed by a suitably qualified occupational therapist and installed by a supplier in line with the relevant standards and state or territory regulations;
- whether the participant owns the vehicle, or in the case of a vehicle owned by a family member, whether the participant has use of the vehicle for their transport needs; and
- whether the participant is able to fund ongoing vehicle running costs including registration, regular insurance, fuel, repairs and maintenance.
The NDIA may also fund supports that are related or incidental to vehicle modifications, for example:
- driver assessments for the purpose of obtaining an endorsed license;
- driving lessons where a participant requires lessons to establish skills to use the modified vehicle, or additional lessons where a participant’s disability results in them taking longer to learn to drive;
- additional insurance costs, where an additional insurance premium is payable as a result of the modifications. Note, the NDIA will only fund the increased amount of the premium, not the total cost of the policy;
- the cost of engineering certification and other checks required for initial registration; and
- the cost of removal of modifications and reinstallation on a new vehicle when doing so is practicable and represents value for money.
The NDIA will generally not fund:
- the purchase of a motor vehicle;
- regular insurance, registration or running costs;
- non-standard items, for example auto docking where the person or their attendant is able to manually dock;
- driving supervision in order for a participant to accrue hours to pass a driving test; or
- major modifications (over $10,000) to a vehicle where less than 8 years has lapsed since the most recent funding of vehicle modifications, unless the participant’s circumstances and needs have significantly changed.
See also is the support most appropriately funded or provided through the NDIStransport.
It is generally expected that vehicle modifications will be suitable for the participant’s anticipated long term needs. Therefore, it is unlikely that further modifications will be funded for the same vehicle except where there are unforeseen and significant changes to the participant’s needs.
Where a participant purchases a new vehicle, where practicable, minor modifications (less than $10,000) should be removed from the old vehicle and re-installed in the new vehicle.