How does an illiterate elderly go about getting his driver’s license?

Today’s topic is an unusual one and I’m sincerely looking for good advice with a matter like this.

An elderly who is now 71 years old was a professional driver on the island for all his life. He drove a huge public bus for a living and would drive 1 hour to and 1 hour back 6 times per day commuting passengers. He got promoted to a higher salary job and began hauling cement and bricks by driving huge trucks.

Back in his time, education was not a priority; his father refused to send him to school and instead taught him skills, such as carpentry, driving, and construction stuff.

This means he’s unable to read today.

He’s currently living in the United states and going nuts over not being able to drive because of DMV written test requirement.

Teaching him to read at the age of 71 is totally impossible for him. The interesting thing about him, though, is that he understands every road signs and rules in the USA just by observing when he’s driving with someone.

It’s sad to see such a great talented guy having to bite the dust with something like this.

Does anyone have good advice to share ?

If reading is impossible for him, how would he be able to truly understand the rules of the road–which are not printed on signs, and which one must internalize and remember after reading and mastering the driver’s manual? I think that he is an excellent example of a customer for whom Uber was created.

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He mainly wants to drive in the area he lives, to take himself to shopping centers, bars, and local stuff. He’s mainly at home because everyone is too busy with work.

It’s still possible to wind-up in an accident, even in the area where one lives.
In fact, according to the NHTSA, more than half of auto accidents that cause serious injury or death occur within 25 miles of home. Furthermore, around 52 percent of accidents occur within five miles of home .

I empathize with him, but I think that he should rely on Uber/Lyft, a bicycle, or his feet when he wants to get around.

I first sought the advice of deaf people on a matter like this because I noticed an awful lot of deaf people who were born deaf are unable to form a sentence. I wondered how they got their license.

Some of them said they had an interpreter who would read and sign to them what the book had to say, then they would sign back with the answer.

I went to the DMV department to ask them about this but the DMV that I went to said they were not aware of this.

I guess the rules have changed over the years.

If he can’t get a license (I don’t know one way or the other, but would be surprised if he could), does he have any flexibility to move to a location with better public transportation?

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Sadly, no. He’s located in the countryside and public transportation is not at his convenience.

I believe there is a way to get him licensed. There are many illiterate deaf people I know. They are shocked that the DMV won’t license this elderly.

Honestly, as a person who can read, I barely read signs in the area I live. I’ll see a stop sign and know what it means. I’ll see a traffic light and know what it means. I’ll see a one way sign and know what it means. I’ll see a do not enter sign and know what it means.

The only time I read road is when I’m traveling out of my comfort zone.

Try contacting the DMV from the state’s website. I’d guess that illiteracy is classified as a disability requiring accommodation. If you were severely dyslexic it would seem they should give an oral exam.

Oh, and you’ll have to call, the website is not very good.


Thank you. I’m going to try this.

I am sure the more enlightened members of this community will recognize that there are many members of the public who, for one reason or another cannot read. Were it a Spanish speaker, accommodations are made all the time. A simple matter of having the questions read to him should suffice. The other arguments here are never presented to other kids or adults to have to interpret any other sign or billboard someone might encounter.

I think your main problem is New York and the beauracracy Involved. But please quit referring to a 71 year old as elderly. Just not accurate anymore.


My apologies, Bing. Had no idea saying such is not welcomed. I said it to show respect.

I’ll take note of your suggestion.

Heh heh. Today is our anniversary. 52 years ago I first spoke to my wife, in the midst of a great tornado.


and that’s why I moved…


Congrats. Well done!

Lately I’m often thinking how weird it is to be the same age as old people.


This is true. A guy in his 60s ( and an ex police officer ) failed to yield to traffic as he was coming out of a drive way and I hit him in the center side of his car, where he had his ribs and arms broken, as well as his wife. I also sustained a broken left knee. The accident occurred just 3 miles away from home.

The officer wasn’t illiterate, though, and he caused the accident not by being unable to read but by being dumb.

His son was also a police officer and they both tried to gang up on me to put me at fault but a nearby police officer hiding behind bushes witnessed the accident and that’s how they got screwed.


Now that you mention it, a good friend of my brother in law has that problem. Into customizing cars, a whiz at wiring, a viet nam vet, but my bil told me in confidence he couldn’t read a word. My bil has to read instructions etc. to him. You’d never know. Lots out there.


I think the best solution is for your 71 year old relative to bite the bullet and learn to read at least well enough to take the written driving test. He’ll object, of course, says it’s impossible. But it isn’t. Just needs to be taken a little at a time, step by step. Like when it took me an entire month to replace my Corolla’s water pump, 15-20 minutes a day, a couple times per week. It still got done. And he doesn’t need to read any advanced literary classics, a grammar school reading level is all he needs. Another upside is this sort of learning experience will improve his overall brain function. Who knows, he may end up reading & enjoying all of Shakespeare’s plays cover to cover.


His wife told me she’s been trying to help him for decades with no luck. lol. He’s the bravest guy in a lot of areas except to learn to read. As soon as one mentions reading to him, he chickens out.

He’s also a licensed firearm carrier on the island since was in his 20s. He recently surrendered his guns. To get a driver license on the island, one has to be well respected and recognized to be able to pay for it with cash. This privilege isn’t granted to just anyone, and one has to know some important people to accomplish this.

I’m with Mustangman (beat me to it), an oral exam should be available…

One of the Best mechanics around here years ago (retired now) could not read or write, He opened a garage with a friend that handled all the paper work etc, called it The Garage and never advertised, always had a 2 to 6 week wait time, did full bumper to bumper repairs, built hot rods for people and was the guy that tuned 90% of the carbs at the drag race track, he was also one of the 1st guys to install a 350/350 into a 240Z… Had his license also… lol