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Industry Seeks to Improve Options for Disabled RV Customers

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For a majority of Ottawa, Ill.-based Handicapped Travel Club members who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility devices to get around however, getting into an RV can be a challenge. Normally, RVs consist of small doors, tight spaces and little accessibility options for disabled individuals.

This story by Ben Quiggle originally appeared in The Elkhart Truth.

Mark Douglass understands the struggles that many disabled individuals face when they want to purchase an RV and hit the open road. Co-founder of the RVing Accessibility Group, he travels around the country rating RV parks, campgrounds and RV units on their compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Douglass, who was once wheelchair bound, said that about one-in-five Americans are disabled and that around 60 percent of those individuals utilize some form of mobility device. He estimates that around 20 to 30 percent of those individuals are interested in camping or RVing.

In Elkhart County, North American RV custom builds RVs for disabled individuals across the country. Terry Hiser, president of North American RV, said that they work with another local RV company, Recreation By Design, and disabled customers, to build a floor plan that will work for them. 

They custom make travel trailers, fifth-wheel models and even Park Model RVs, which are meant for long-term stays at camping sites. Price wise, Hiser said that depending on the features the customer wants, the custom-made models can cost $10,000 to $14,000 more than a base model RV right off the manufacturer’s line. 

Winnebago Industries and Nappanee-based RV maker Newmar manufacture wheel-chair accessible Class A Motor Coaches depending on the needs of the customer. Sam Jefson, public relations specialist for Winnebago, said that they can craft RVs with wider doors, lifts and ramps. A Winnebago brochure also says the company offers roll-in showers and conveniently located controls. Jefson could not provide the number of RVs they manufactured for disabled customers over the last year. 

Douglass said that it is great some manufacturers are willing to make RVs for disabled customers when they get orders, but that the industry has a lot of work to do before they will be fully compliant with ADA requirements. He notes that a lot of RVs being custom made by manufacturers are still falling short for disabled customers, with cabinets and microwaves that are out of reach for a wheel-chair bound individual. 

While there is still a lot of work to do in the industry to meet the demands of disabled customers, many Handicapped Travel Club members are grateful for the experiences RVing has given them.

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