The RVing Accessibility Group recently expanded its effort to make parks, RVs and campgrounds accessible to all users, starting a referral partnership program with dealerships.
The deal is part of a new initiative by the non-profit group, in which dealers are vetted and approved by the Group, pay a small fee (about $180 per state, per year) and receive endorsement from the Group at trade shows and on the website.
“It’s not a money-making deal for us,” Accessibility Group founder and President Mark Douglass said. “It affords us the opportunity to attend certain shows – like the Abilities Expo (in Houston, Texas), which was all out-of-pocket, but by the end of the second day, all the brochures I brought for (our dealer partners) were gone.”
The idea for the new initiative came after Douglass received numerous requests from a range of consumers, both young and old, searching for a dealership to provide accessible RVs and dealerships.
Thus far, two dealerships, Wildwood, Fla.-based Alliance Coach and Guaranty RV Super Center in Junction City, Ore., have signed on with the group, promising accessible RVs and service for customers recommended by the Group. Douglass thinks he could have a New England dealer on board in the coming month.
For the first year, the Accessibility Group’s goal is to ink the endorsement deals with five strategically placed dealers throughout the country. Currently, Douglass is searching for dealer partners to cover Texas, the Midwest and the Northeast.
Each of the partners will cover a territory based on the services they’re able to provide. While large dealerships, such as Alliance Coach and Guaranty RV can cover wide swaths that include several states, Douglass said he’s open to dealerships covering smaller regions.
“The important thing is that they’re able to cover the service area that they say they can cover,” he said, adding that if the Group recommends a dealership, he wants to make sure that dealer is capable of meeting the demand.
That demand may be larger than many RV industry leaders think. According to 2012 U.S. Census Data, about 56 percent of women and 45 percent of men over the age of 65, have some type of disability. Those numbers are expected to increase as the generation ages.
As the key demographic for the RV industry, Douglass thinks that the issue should be more prevalent for RV industry leaders, who, he admits, stand to reap profits from the market.
“If the RV industry is going to accommodate these requests from the (Americans with Disabilities Act), and, yes, capitalize on the opportunity, they need to do proper floorplan designs and all amenities within reach range,” Douglass said.
But Douglass said that the Group’s primary concern, whether they’re working with campground owners, dealerships or manufacturers and suppliers, is education.
Many dealers, campgrounds and manufacturers simply aren’t aware how simple and rewarding, both morally and financially, accessibility changes can be, Douglass said.
“It’s not just a civil rights law,” Douglass said. “It is the right thing to do, especially if you want to capitalize on this highly untapped market that continues to grow daily.”