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Accessible travel: mobile homes for people with disabilities

Anyone who travels would like to be able to enjoy the highest possible degree of freedom and flexibility – this, of course, also applies to people with disabilities. With the right equipment, people with disabilities can travel more independently and enjoy the real advantages of access camping vacations: the closeness to nature, the freedom to choose where to go and the relaxed atmosphere on the campsite.

What does barrier-free mean?

In most cases, the term 'barrier-free' refers to campgrounds that are accessible to people with mobility restrictions. However, in the further development of barrier-free campgrounds, it is important to also remove barriers that are not related to mobility. For example, signs or information boards can be very helpful for people with visual impairment through a high-contrast design or the use of braille.

What are the requirements for accessible camping?

To make a barrier-free vacation possible for people with limited mobility, several prerequisites must be met:

  • The means of transport to the destination must be accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Accommodation at the destination must be accessible.

  • Leisure activities can be accessibly designed: e.g. access to beaches, wheelchair-accessible hiking trails.

In terms of camping vacations, this means that both the RV and the campsite should have no barriers. Travelling to the campsite should be as comfortable as possible and wheelchair users should be able to explore the campsite grounds without difficulties. Those wishing to explore a little should find out whether the local facilities are accessible and whether any local excursions are accessible for wheelchair users.

What equipment does a wheelchair-accessible motorhome need?

A specially adapted RV allows people with physical impairments to travel without any problems. For campers who are dependent on a wheelchair, there are generally two options:

  • Convert a motorhome to be wheelchair-accessible: The biggest advantage is that the motorhome can be adapted to the needs of individuals and no compromises must be made in terms of equipment.

  • Renting a motorhome that is accessible to the disabled: This option is particularly worthwhile for people with an impairment who first want to try out whether they will enjoy an accessible vacation in a motorhome. In addition, it is much cheaper to rent a motorhome than to buy and convert one.

A wheelchair-accessible RV must have the same adaptations as barrier-free apartments or houses. The basic requirements are:

  • Access to the motorhome via ramp or lift

  • Wider doors (approx. 35 inches)

  • Wider and accessible interior

  • Adaptations to the driver's cabin (e.g. driver's seat or steering)

  • Wheelchair-accessible restroom (e.g. accessible toilet and shower with handrails)

  • Wheelchair accessible adaptations to the living area (e.g. beds and kitchenette)

 

Driving in a wheelchair-accessible RV

A wheelchair-accessible conversion to the cabin must enable wheelchair users to travel safely - either as a passenger or as the driver. The following vehicle modifications will make driving the motorhome accessible to more people:

  • Automatic transmission

  • Specially adapted accelerator and brake controls

  • Easy entry to the cabin

  • Transfer aids from the wheelchair to the driver's seat

A safe wheelchair restraint system is important for wheelchair-user passengers. The wheelchair must be securely fastened to the motorhome’s floor along with seatbelts.

Accessible motorhome restroom

An accessible toilet and shower are the most important parts of a wheelchair-accessible motorhome - this means that the restroom area should be at ground level and easily accessible. Wheelchair users should be able to use the bathroom independently and at any time. The following equipment is essential in an accessible restroom:

  • Grab rails or bars

  • Comfortable toilet seat height

  • A basin that is accessible from underneath or can be pulled out

  • An accessible shower (with shower wheelchair) or folding shower seat

  • Mirror at a usable height

Interior fittings in an accessible motorhome

A barrier-free motorhome is not only a means of transport but also a living space. Therefore, the motorhome must also have wheelchair-accessible modifications. These include:

  • Accessible tables/kitchen units

  • Appliances and switches at a usable height

  • Benches/tables that can be folded away

  • Large beds with space to maneuver in and out

 

Book accessible motorhomes in plenty of time

Finding the right motorhome is one of the most important parts of preparing for a camping vacation. As the demand for accessible motorhomes is currently greater than the supply, early research and booking are advisable.

How can I tell if a campsite is accessible?

An accessible campsite can enable people with limited mobility to enjoy their motorhome vacation to the full. After all, no one wants to spend their stay stuck inside their motorhome. Disability-friendly campgrounds must meet various requirements to enable all visitors to enjoy their accessible vacation:

  • Important campsite facilities such as reception, grocery stores or restaurants are designed to be accessible. For example, the entrances should have ramps and doors that are wide enough for a wheelchair.

  • The sidewalks between the campsite facilities should be accessible by wheelchair and as direct and flat as possible.

  • Facilities that have steps should also have a ramp or lift.

  • Parking or pitches are adapted for campers with disabilities.

  • The campsite should have easily accessible facilities (including within certain facilities, e.g. restaurants). The campsite's sanitary facilities should be adapted for wheelchair access, i.e. they are level, have enough space, and are equipped with grab rails or bars.

  • Comfort facilities and communal facilities such as swimming pools, saunas, or wellness areas should be accessible.

Find accessible campgrounds

You can search directly for accessible campgrounds on many campsite websites. Depending on the website, you can filter out which facilities each campsite has or read about them in the detailed description.

The following websites list accessible campgrounds and RV parks in the US:

There are also useful apps for searching for accessible campgrounds, such as:

  • iaccess.life (developed by iAccess innovations)

  • Wheelguide accesiblity (developed by Guiaderodas Desenvolvimento e Pesquisas LTDA)

The various websites and apps can make the search for an accessible campsite easier, as their filter options provide a first insight into the facilities available for people with disabilities. Ideally, this lists the features in greater detail.

Better safe than sorry

If in doubt, a call to the campsite operator can clarify what facilities exactly are barrier-free so you can choose the campgrounds that suit your needs.

Conclusion: Barrier-free travel in a motorhome

Camping vacations can be enjoyed by many people with disabilities: With the right equipment, a vacation in a motorhome can be a good alternative to vacations by bus, train, or plane. A wheelchair-accessible motorhome and a barrier-free campsite make a carefree vacation possible. The requirements for a wheelchair-accessible converted motorhome are the same as those for the living space at home - from low switches and wide doors to a wheelchair-accessible bathroom area. Additional equipment such as fully electronic environmental controls makes camping vacations even safer and more comfortable. At the campsite, it is also important that the site has been designed to be barrier-free, not only in the sanitary area but also in important facilities and communal areas. This guarantees that the camping vacation is also a pleasure for people with limited mobility and does not become an unwanted adventure.