IT seems the DVLA has backtracked on changes made to its guidance, which would have affected thousands of drivers who are autistic.

In line with any condition that can affect driving, original text on the agency’s website indicated that anyone with an autism spectrum disorder, whose ability to drive would be affected by their condition, should inform the agency.

This meant that while some autistic and neurodiverse drivers would need to disclose their condition and the affects it would have on their ability to drive – many others would not have to share this information because their autism poses no issue, or isn’t a disability at all.

The decision to revert back to original instructions followed mounting public pressure and unrest when it was revealed that the government agency, charged with driving and licensing, had shifted its requirements calling on ‘all drivers with an autism spectrum disorder’ to disclose this to the DVLA.

A spokesperson for the North East Autism Society said:

I think what makes this particularly worrying is that as far as we know there was no consultation around this, and no announcement regarding the changes: just a subverted change that both implies ignorance – as not all autistic people would be negatively affected by their autism in any way, far less having it classed as a serious disability, and also demonstrates ignorance of autism and neurodiversity. No two people will have the same differences or challenges, so to box everyone up in one category is at best demeaning and at worst a catalyst for prejudice and fear. We’re glad the language on the DVLA website has reverted back. Let’s hope it highlights the need to be educated and understanding around neurodiversity.

Advice on the DVLA website has been amended to instruct drivers to inform the DVLA if they have an autistic spectrum disorder “and it affects your driving” – a requirement that is standard for many conditions.

The removal of the clause had the potential to affect thousands of drivers across the UK, with the threat of a £1000 fine and prosecution if they were involved in an accident without reporting their diagnosis.

Following calls for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate, the DVLA tweeted last night:

In our attempt to clarify the advice for drivers with autism spectrum disorders we’ve clearly muddied the waters and we’re very sorry for that. We have amended the advice on GOV.UK for both drivers and medical professionals which make it clear that a driver who has an autism spectrum disorder need only tell us if their condition could affect their driving.