Gone Outdoors

How to Make Your RV Handicapped Accessible

by Shari A. Shallard

With the right modifications, RV travel can be enjoyed by wheelchair-bound travelers. Modifications might include structural changes, such as widening doorways and lowering kitchen counters, or smaller electrical tweaks, like moving light switches. But the most high-impact work typically takes place around the steering wheel, the RV’s entry points and the bathroom. Visiting a local RV dealer or mobility specialist to discuss specific needs is necessary for such a personalized process.

Steering

The physical demands of RV driving can be mitigated with the use of hand controls. These can accommodate those with partial paralysis, leg spasms, minimal hand strength or limited flexibility. An agile hand with an immobile arm, for instance, can use a steering knob that only requires a small, single-handed twist; alternatively, a disabled hand with a full-functioning arm can turn the wheel using a steering cuff. Installed hand levers can control speed, with the driver pulling back for acceleration and forward for braking. To drive with adaptive options, drivers must be properly licensed. Contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists to find a qualified local evaluator.

Doors

Getting in and out of the vehicle can be made easier by widening the doorway on the side of the RV and installing a lift or ramp. Wheelchair lifts, chair lifts, standing lifts and ramps are all options. For towable RVs, the cab of the vehicle pulling the RV is often higher than standard cars and might require an additional lift. Online supplier directories, such as Mobility-Advisor.com, are good starting points for choosing a brand and style of lift or ramp.

Bathrooms

Like other spaces throughout the RV, the doorway of the bathroom may need to be widened to allow a wheelchair to enter and move around. Other changes include the installation of accessible showers or of special toilets and sinks. Simpler modifications include lowered medicine cabinets and mirrors, and the addition of support bars. Visit a local mobility specialist to assess your RV’s existing bathroom and determine how the space can be reconfigured to accommodate your needs.

Getting Started

Visit a local specialist to make modifications to an existing RV, or consider working with a dealership on a new, customized RV that has all of the necessary accommodations built in from the start. Take some time to look into groups such as the Handicapped Travel Club and the RV Accessibility Group to connect with a thriving network of kindred travelers undertaking the same journey.

About the Author

Shari A. Shallard has been managing editor of Vita Bella Travel Guides since 2009, writing extensively about sophisticated family travel with an emphasis on culture, design and local experiences. She has been in publishing for 11 years and holds a Master of Arts in contemporary writing from the University of York, England.

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