Special needs accommodations for the theory test during COVID-19


If candidates require special needs assistance when taking the theory test some changes to the provision previously available have become necessary due to the COVID-19 restrictions. This may affect the provision that was previously requested and has already been agreed by Pearson VUE (the company that currently administers the theory test). 

1. Computer voiceover (available for any candidate) – no changes necessary. 

2. Extra time – no changes necessary. 

If a face to face reader/recorder (where the reader/recorder sits next to the candidate, reads the questions and answers and then marks the answer given by the candidate) has been requested the following alternative may be offered when booking the test: 

3. “Translator kit” (reader only) 

a Candidates will be provided with headphones and a standard computer terminal with an attached computer mouse. 

b The reader will be in a separate room with a twinned computer and will communicate with the candidate via the headphones. 

c The reader can talk to the candidate to read the questions and answers but the candidate has no microphone so cannot ask anything of the reader.

d The candidate should ‘hover’ the computer mouse pointer over the selected question and the reader will then read it. If the candidate needs the question repeating they should move the pointer away and then reposition it over the same question, the reader will then repeat the selected question. 

e If the candidate needs the answers reading they should repeat the process above, by ‘hovering‘ the mouse pointer above each of the answers in turn and the reader will read the indicated answer, requests for repeats as above. 

f The candidate should then mark their chosen answer themselves by clicking the mouse on the selected answer in the normal way. 

g The candidate will need to flag any questions themselves if this is required  and will then need to operate the standard review controls in the normal way. 

h Candidate will need to operate the video play/pause/repeat controls for the case study question themselves in the normal way.  

This option will probably not be suitable for candidates with no reading ability or for those that cannot make sense of written words. It requires the candidate to select a question/answer by moving the mouse pointer on the screen so that it  ‘hovers’ over the selected question or answer. This will be very difficult if the candidate cannot recognise which question or answer they need to ‘hover’ the  mouse over.

4. DVSA has confirmed that the previously available option of a face to face reader recorder is still available but may be more difficult to arrange and may result in a longer wait for test availability. The reader, provided by Pearson VUE, sits next to the candidate (but now behind a transparent screen). They are able to talk to the candidate who is permitted to reply to ask for a question/answer to be repeated or asked more slowly. They will read the questions/answers as they appear on the screen and will then mark the answer chosen by the candidate. The reader can flag questions and operate the review controls if the candidate requests; they can also operate the video play/pause/repeat controls for the case study question if requested. For candidates using the services of a face to face reader/recorder, it may be necessary to change work stations before starting the hazard perception test, which must be completed by the candidate alone. Pearson will ensure that all workstation  equipment is completely sanitised. 

For all the reader/recorder options (3 & 4) the questions and answers are read as they appear on the computer screen – the readers are not permitted to explain the meaning of the English language used or to rephrase it. 

5. For OLM (Oral Language Modification) tests the reader/recorder can explain the meaning of the language used and is permitted to rephrase the questions/answers to make them easier to understand, however they are not allowed to explain the  meaning of technical terms. OLM tests are only available for candidates with severe  difficulties in language comprehension. DVSA has confirmed that the ‘translator kit’ will not be used for OLM tests; only face to face reader/recorders will be used. 

6. Separate room (quiet environment). This may be available on request if the  candidate is able to demonstrate that they would be seriously distracted by other  people in the same room, proof of the special needs will be required. A separate room may also be necessary if other candidates would be distracted by the special needs accommodations being provided. 

Unfortunately due to the difficulty maintaining social distancing in the small side rooms and the difficulty providing adequate ventilation, most separate rooms are  currently unavailable. If a separate room is essential, a total centre shutdown may be  required to allow the candidate to take the test on their own in the main room. 

For Deaf candidates

7. On-screen BSL interpreter – no changes necessary 

Candidates have reported that the sign language is difficult to follow when using the on screen BSL: the size of the window used for the on-screen signer is very small, you don’t get the same person signing for all the questions, regional variations in BSL make it difficult to follow, you can’t ask the signer to explain what the sign language means and you can’t ask the signer to slow down. Our recommendation is to ask for a face to face BSL interpreter.  

8. Face to face BSL interpreter: the candidate and interpreter will be separated by a transparent screen and both are permitted to remove their face coverings to allow for the reading of facial expressions and lip movements. This service could be a ‘reading’ service with the candidate marking their own answers on the computer in the normal way or it could be a ‘reader/recorder’ service where the candidate signs which answer they want to be marked.

A total centre shutdown would be required if the candidate needs a separate room or for reader/recorder tests, for OLM tests and for tests for Deaf candidates using face to face BSL interpreters. 

DVSA has confirmed that from 12 April 2021 all test centres will open on Saturdays and a dedicated time slot will be available at 3.30 every Saturday afternoon for tests that require a total centre shutdown. 

Proof of special needs and booking the theory test 

If a computer voice over (option 1) or an on-screen BSL interpreter (option 7) is  required, this needs to requested when booking the test but if it has not been  requested in advance they should still be available if asked for on the day. No proof of special needs is required for these accommodations. 

If extra time is needed or if the services of a reader or recorder are required, candidates will need to provide proof of special needs. This could be a letter from  school or college confirming the special needs provision used for exams or tests, it  could be a letter from their doctor confirming the reading difficulty, it may be a report from the British Dyslexia Association screening service, it may be a Driving Mobility Assessment Report or could be some other form of proof eg a PIP assessment report confirming the candidate’s difficulty understanding written information. This proof needs to be sent to the Customer Care Team at Pearson VUE well in advance of booking the test; they will consider the proof and if they agree will confirm this in writing, providing a reference number which needs to be quoted when booking the test, which is best done by phone or send an email with a contact phone number. Deaf candidates can book via the minicom service. 

For OLM tests (option 5) proof of a significant difficulty with language comprehension (usually a Statement of Educational Needs) will have to be sent to Pearson VUE and when accepted can be booked as above. 

For Deaf candidates needing a face to face BSL interpreter (option 8), no proof is required but this must be requested well in advance of booking the test to give  Pearson time to arrange the interpreter.  

If you need further information please contact the Pearson VUE Customer Care Team. If sending an email put ‘special needs accommodations’ in the subject box: 

Tel: 0300 200 1122 email: [email protected]  Minicom: 0300 200 1166 

If the test is being booked by the candidate’s ADI or by family/friends and they need to talk to Pearson or DVSA on behalf of the candidate, a DVSA Data Protection Form will have to be completed and signed by the candidate and their nominee; this should be sent to Pearson in advance and will give permission for Pearson to discuss the booking with the candidate’s nominee.  

DVSA has stated that they will confirm the changes to the special needs accommodations as soon as possible. Changes will be notified to ADIs so they can help their pupils to prepare and they will also be notified direct to candidates so they are kept fully informed. Information on GOV.UK will be updated and DVSA will produce a short information video which will be shared on social media and with candidates booking special needs tests. 

Click here for more information on Disability Driving Instructors.

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