Disabled people who travel have higher levels of satisfaction in their lives than non-disabled travelers, according to one study. There’s no better way to explore new places than in the comfort of your own RV. Just ask the RV owners who take an average of 3 trips per year in theirs. But to ensure your trips are the best they can be, you need to do a little work to make your RV as accessible as possible for any disabled travelers.
Install a wheelchair lift
It’s estimated that 3 million Americans use a wheelchair on either a full-time or part-time basis. One of the biggest accessibility problems with an RV is the location of the door, which is typically located high up from the ground. Depending on the disabilities any travelers have and their level of mobility, you may be okay to just install a hand bar to the side of the stairs to help them in and out of the RV. Less-abled travelers, including those in a wheelchair, will require a ramp or lift. This may mean widening the doorway to ensure a smooth transition and to enable a wheelchair to fit through it with ease. To meet the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) requirements, the wheelchair lift will need a space of at least 30-inches by 48-inches.
A great thing about RVs is that you’re able to use the bathroom on board while traveling, so there’s no need to look for an RV-friendly service station. Some work will need to go into your RV’s bathroom before you travel with a disabled passenger, though. Handrails are essential in the shower, directly outside the shower, and by the toilet as they reduce the chance of a fall. One study found that 18% of people with an intellectual disability fell at home in the previous 12 months. The shower needs to have a pull-down seat in it so showering is as easy and safe as possible. It’s also worth turning the bathroom into a wet room or installing a flat-leveled shower so there’s no step to maneuver.
Widen the living space
More than 60% of RV owners travel more than 500 miles in one trip. Meanwhile, just over 65% say they spend at least one month of the year in their RV. As this is a long time, you need to make sure the living space of your RV is comfortable and fully accessible for all passengers. Widening the space is recommended as disability aids take up a lot of space and this will make life easier for everyone. You may want to replace your table with a bar as this is more suitable for wheelchair users. Seating should be supportive, height-adjustable, and higher than standard chairs. Other adaptations may be needed, depending on the disabilities the individual has. For example, someone with the condition fibromyalgia may require a mobility lift chair, whereas, a person with cerebral palsy could need a chair with a 5-point safety harness. The cpfamilynetwork.org “provides resources and support to help care for loved ones with cerebral palsy.” So, if you’re planning on traveling in an RV with someone with this condition, you can be reassured that help and advice on the assistance they’ll need is available.
Lower essential items
One thing which is crucial to most disabled people is independence. They want to be able to do things for themselves and not rely on their nearest and dearest to do things for them. For this reason, you must make alterations to your RV such as lowering electrical sockets and light switches for wheelchair users. Cabinets, countertops, and cupboards also need to be at a suitable height for the disabled person to access. If they’re a wheelchair user, an open space beneath countertops is crucial so they can comfortably fit their legs underneath. Kitchen appliances should be disabled-friendly and located at a suitable height so the disabled traveler can make their own hot drinks and meals. This will reduce serious personal injury and lower the risk of a fire. Cooking is the main cause of fires where a disabled person is involved, which is why you need to make your RV’s kitchen as suitable and accessible as you can.
Buy an accessible RV
If you don’t feel comfortable making changes to your RV, there is another option; buying an accessible RV. An increasing number of RV manufacturers now sell accessible RVs, including Winnebago, Pathway, and Newmar. Accessible RVs are usually more expensive than standard RVs due to the modifications within them. The starting price of the Newmar Bay Star 3811 Wheelchair Accessible RV is $158,816. However, you could invest in a second-hand specially-adapted RV instead.
The benefits of traveling the country in an RV are plentiful for disabled people. Just make sure you spend plenty of time making your RV disability-friendly before you embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Plus, be sure you’re covered by an RV Advisor Extended Warranty Plan!