I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
If you are disabled and want to get involved in the recreational vehicle lifestyle, it’s important for you to purchase a coach with the types of amenities that will make travel possible and also guarantee your comfort and safety while you’re using your camper, travel trailer or motor home.
The number of things you’ll need will depend largely on the type of disability you have, so some of the things discussed here may not apply to you.
- If you are wheelchair-bound, any unit you purchase will need to have all of the amenities discussed below.
- If not, you can purchase a coach that only contains the items you need.
Research and Planning Are Important
People in wheelchairs may think that the only things they need are ramps and wider doorways, but those will not suffice.
This is why handicapped individuals need to do a lot of research and planning before they purchase a travel unit.
Knowing what is available for your specific situation is the only way you’ll be able to make a good buying choice.
I’ve attached a video of a travel trailer that is extremely well designed for use by disability travelers.
It is my belief that a travel trailer is likely the best choice for this purpose because they sit lower to the ground than other RVs thus making access much easier for those who have difficulty walking. Take a look and see what you think!
There are a number of manufacturers building disability equipped RVs of different types, so make sure to do a thorough search for them.
Below is a discussion of the basic amenities a really well designed disability coach should have.
An extremely well-designed disability RV
Electric Ramp or Lift
This is a must-have amenity for any disability RV because being able to easily enter and leave a coach is essential. These units operate at the push of a button and store comfortably within the RV.
Travel trailers sit lower than motor homes or fifth wheels, and in some circumstances may not require ramps or lifts at all.
A Nice but More Costly Disability Travel Unit
For wheelchair-bound travelers, doorways that can accommodate a wheelchair are a must-have. Standard travel units rarely have doorways that would be wide enough to handle the width of the average wheelchair.
Lower Counters and Cabinets
People in wheelchairs must be able to reach storage, washing and cooking areas and can only do so if they sit lower than normal. To be able to do this more comfortably lower cabinets should have open spaces within them called “knee hole” areas that allow room for those in wheelchairs to sit close enough to be able to handle cooking, dish washing and other chores.
For those with conditions such as arthritis, counters and cabinets should be higher, and lower shelves should be the types that roll out to make accessing stored items easier. These adaptations will reduce the need to bend and reach, which can be difficult for those with joint problems or who have had various types of surgeries.
A Conversion: Toy Hauler to Disability RV
Showers with flat entry areas are must-haves for anybody with a handicap because they make entering and leaving easy, even when people must use a wheel chair.
Showers should also have a built-in flip-down seat people can use to make showering safer and easier.
A flexible showerhead with a long hose is also a necessity, and for wheelchair patients, lowered controls are a must-have.
Additionally, showers should have grab bars installed both within the shower and just outside of it to help travelers can avoid falls.
Second Half of Video Shows Disability Adaptations
Easily Accessible Twin Beds
It is much easier to use beds that sit high and are separated by a wide aisle than it is to use a queen walk-around bed, but this only works if the aisle is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
Also, if one person has to get up at night to use the bathroom, twin beds make it easier to do so without disturbing the sleep of a fellow RVer.
Steering Wheel Hand Controls
Some people are unable to use their legs, so having foot controls on the steering column resolves driving problems for them. This amenity would also help people who have lost the use of one leg or have to change positions often due to arthritic conditions.
Lowered Lighting, Tank and Electric Connections
It’s important for wheelchair-bound travelers to be able to easily reach the controls for lights, tank checks and electric plugs. For this reason, they should be much lower than normal.
However, for those with conditions that make bending difficult, controls should be placed where access is at eye level.
All furniture should sit higher than normal, be firm and have good back support. These things make transferring from a wheelchair much easier and also make sitting and rising easier for people with back, leg and hip problems.
The captain chairs should be electronically operated and should swivel to make access safer and easier.
Upholstered furniture is also a must as it saves wear and tear on the body.
Side Entry Doors
Even when a disabled person would use a ramp or lift to enter the coach, it should still have a side entry. This is because front entry doors would make seating difficult for a disabled person.
Side entry doors provide more room for front area seating and would make transferring to and from a wheelchair more feasible.
Electrically Operated Slide Rooms
It’s imperative that any disabled equipped coach have slide-out rooms because these make movement easier for those in wheelchairs as well as other travelers.
They must, however, be the type that sits even with the main floor when in the open position.
Lower Level Appliances
As with counters and cabinets, appliances should also sit lower if the coach is to be used by a wheelchair-bound individual. This placement is especially important for ovens, microwaves and convection microwaves because it can avoid spills and burns.
People with handicaps that don’t require wheelchair use will not need this amenity.
Advice From the Voice of Experience
Below is some advice all new disabled RVers should heed:
- If you have never owned an RV before, travel, at least at first, with at least one person who can physically deal with the rigors of travel or issues that might arise.
- Before you purchase a recreational vehicle either rent one for travel or rent a vacation unit that is already set up in a park.
- Contact other people who have disabilities similar to your own who already are traveling in RVs to hear what they have to say and to pick up good travel tips.
- Check out YouTube videos that deal with disability RVing.
- Research previously-owned handicap equipped units to see if there is one that will work for you. Doing this could save you a fair amount of money.
- Be realistic about your situation. Disability RVing is not for everybody and may not turn out to be what you think it is.
- If you are using SSI or Medicaid, make sure that buying a unit won’t mess up your income statement for eligibility for these programs.
A Final Word
There are a number of ways people can become part of the RV lifestyle, and not all of them require buying a coach.
RVs are expensive to buy and own and require a lot of upkeep, so you might be better off renting than owning. There’s all sorts of info about doing this on the internet, so don’t hesitate to search h and learn.
If you do decide to purchase a disability RV, make sure it is equipped with everything you will need so that you’ll have quality vacations.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on May 21, 2019:
Thank you. It isn't easy to RV with a disability so people who have one should really make sure that their RVs are appropriately equipped.
Liz Westwood from UK on May 20, 2019:
This is a thorough, useful and well-structured article. Anyone with a disability and considering purchasing an RV should read this.