Gettin’ around town

If you have a disability, affording a vehicle and the associated expenses can be difficult. However, if you want independence and the opportunity to integrate and circulate, a vehicle is first prize. GAVIN MYERS looks at some of the practicalities.

Certain countries, such as the United States of America (USA) or New Zealand, offer their citizens with disabilities some form of assistance in terms of affording to buy and pay for a vehicle. The website Disability.gov, the U.S. federal government website for information on disability programmes and services, states that in the USA, for example, state-based programmes exists to help disabled citizens pay for cars or repairs.

In New Zealand, financial help for people with disabilities is provided by the government. In this instance, grants help pay for vehicles and vehicle modifications as well as scooters and other mobility equipment. A weekly disability allowance is also available to help with regular and ongoing costs, including that of travel.

Leasing is possible, too. In the United Kingdom, the Motability national charity provides people with disabilities with a simple way to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair – therefore removing the worry of owning and running one.

Unfortunately, both state-supported and private assistance such as this is limited in South Africa. However, preferential options are available through the likes of certain vehicle manufacturers and financial institutions when applying for and buying a new vehicle.

Volvo Car South Africa, for example, offers people with disabilities preferential or discounted vehicle pricing (not a finance package).

“There is an exemption on duties for vehicles which are customised for the disabled, and a separate price list is available from Volvo dealers in this regard,” the company states. “Our dealers would tailor a deal for a customer with disabilities according to their needs on an ad-hoc basis. Naturally, the financing portion of the deal would be subject to the same requirements, credit checks, and so on as any other deal – just with the special pricing. Every deal is therefore undertaken on its unique merits.”

Another example is Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. It advises that, while it does not offer specific financing and insurance solutions to people with disabilities, they too are offered special, parastatal-level pricing when buying a Ford, as opposed to regular retail pricing.

It will be up to buyers to enquire about the different options and benefits available from the various vehicle dealers. In most instances, it must be remembered that special vehicle adaptations will likely be treated as an additional cost – that is, over and above the vehicle purchase options offered by the vehicle manufacturer.

There is some good news in this regard, though, and it comes from the South African Revenue Service (SARS). A South African taxpayer who has, or whose spouse or child has, a disability or physical impairment may qualify for certain deductions if the expense is necessary for the alleviation of the restriction on a person’s ability to perform functions of daily living – as per the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962.

Regarding a motor vehicle, this therefore includes the modifications that will need to be made to the vehicle to permit a person with a disability to get into and out of the vehicle, or to drive the vehicle. It must be noted, though, that the cost of acquiring the vehicle will not qualify for a deduction.

Further, in terms of the Act, certain travel expenses as a consequence of disability may be claimed for, as may any alterations made to the likes of garage doors or gates.

The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA) and QASA can provide further information and guidance as to the necessary rebate application processes.

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