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For many with physical disabilities, the idea of traveling the country can feel out of the realm of possibility. The stress and logistics of planes are too much and climbing up the stairs of a camper is impossible. But there are ways to modify an RV to be wheelchair accessible and handicap friendly, without paying for custom camper vans.
You can even buy RVs with wheelchair lifts and a modified floor plan designed to be wheelchair accessible!
We’ll cover what features to look for in a wheelchair accessible RV and where you can find one near you. Plus, we share a few tips on how to modify your existing camper to be more handicap accessible.
Wheelchair-Friendly Features in RVs
Look for these features in a wheelchair accessible RV.
- A wheelchair lift or ramp. Without a lift or ramp, an RV is much too high off the ground to be easily entered. In addition to a wheelchair lift, Colton Young, a product manager for Winnebago says this. “Some of the key features that our vehicles have outside of the wheelchair lift will be a Q’straint tie down system. This system secures the wheelchair when the vehicle is in motion and also provides an additional seating location if the individual decides…to ride in their wheelchair.”
- Extra wide doorways. The ADA recommends doors be 32 inches wide to allow for wheelchairs and crutches to easily pass, however, standard RV doors are only 24″-28″. You’ll need to find an RV with an extra wide door or a separate entrance (like a lift) for the wheelchair itself. Interior doorways, such as the bathroom door, should be extra wide as well.
- Open concept. An open floor plan is necessary to allow the wheelchair user to be able to navigate the small space.
- Lower countertops and furniture. Lower countertops make meal prep possible. In the Winnebago Inspire motorhome, the dining table is adaptable, with a lower slide-out at the proper height for a wheelchair. Another inclusion is captain chairs in the front of the vehicle that swivel to make transferring easier.
- Accessible beds. A bed must be low enough for transfer. In manufactured RVs, this is often motorized.
- Accessible showers. An open shower where one can easily roll in and out of the space with grab bars installed.
- Lowered controls. One easily overlooked feature is the height of all the RV controls. These should be “lowered for easy reach,” says the product manager for Winnebago.
- Support bars. For those with limited mobility, support bars throughout the RV are essential, particularly in the bathroom.
Looking for all of these features in an RV may feel impossible, but there are handicapped RV manufacturers that can help meet these needs.
Limited Mobility Features You Can Add to Your RV
Not all of the above features are modifications that can be made to an RV you already own, like widening the doorways or lowering the countertops. But you can easily add a few features to your existing camper to make it more accessible for those with disabilities.
Rita and her husband Jerry are seasoned campers from South Carolina who have loved their RV adventures over the past six years. But after Jerry was injured in a work accident, Rita knew she needed to adapt her existing camper to better support Jerry.
“He can walk about 20 feet but can’t stand for more than 10-15 seconds,” explained Rita. She reached out to us via email to share how she adapted her trailer for limited mobility campers.
“We’ve added solid steps to our travel trailer, modified the A/C, upgraded the mattress, added an extra handrail and extra lighting for the steps so he doesn’t miss a step entering or exiting the camper,” shared Rita.
Handrails and extra lighting are straightforward additions that any DIYer can add to an RV. These are essential for preventing falls and injuries, particularly in stairwells.
“I realize this is a lot of info,” Rita said, “but I feel like there are others out there who love camping as much as we do and don’t want to give up this wonderful experience due to some limitations.”
Like Rita, you can find ways to adapt your RV to fit your mobility needs, like adding a support bar in the bathroom:
- ANTI-SLIP COVER---Our U shaped toilet grab bar is constructed of aluminum alloy armrest with anti-slip cover, with strong friction and better grip,which is anti-rust 2MM wall thickness is sturdy enough to support up to 264lbs of pull force. The upper rod and the lower rod bear load evenly, maintaining a stable and artistic appearance
Can you add a wheelchair lift to an RV?
Yes, you can add a wheelchair lift to an RV. However, adding a wheelchair lift can be difficult and cost upwards of $10,000. According to BraunAbility, the average cost is more like $10,000-$30,000. Plus, as mentioned earlier, your existing RV door may not be wide enough to fit a wheelchair.
There are a few primary options for lifts designed to be added to vans and RVs:
- Coach Lift. These mobility lifts are ideal for those with limited mobility.
- BraunAbility. This company offers wheelchair lifts in various sizes to fit your van or motorhome. This is the brand of lift we see most often installed on RVs.
- Burr Engineering. Burr sells platform lifts as well as scooter lifts and can ship them direct to your door.
- RV Lifts. This company only offers chair lifts, not wheelchair lifts, for those with limited mobility.
Be sure to also consider how to tie down and secure the wheelchair when the vehicle is in motion.
If you do add your own lift, we highly recommend having a professional install this equipment, although some products say they can be self-installed.
Who Makes Wheelchair Accessible RVs?
With the high cost of adding a wheelchair lift and the difficulty of adapting an RV to your needs, an RV manufactured for those who need enhanced accessibility is often the best solution.
Two names rise to the top when it comes to handicapped RV manufacturers:
Between these two brands, you can find motorhomes and vans with wheelchair lifts built in. Newmar is heralded as making the first wheelchair-accessible motorhome back in 2012 and they currently offer three different accessible Class A motorhomes.
Keystone also offers a floorplan on the Outback toy hauler trailer (floor plan 342CG) designed with wheelchairs in mind. Instead of offering a wheelchair lift, the trailer has a built-in wheelchair ramp. And Harbor View prides itself on building only wheelchair accessible trailers.
Finding one of these wheelchair accessible RVs near you is likely easier than you think.
“Winnebago has over 50 dealership locations across the United States and Canada that are currently selling our accessible enhanced RVs. They are inventorying these RVs so that customers can purchase them right off their lots,” said Young.
How to Find a Wheelchair Accessible RV Near You
Not every RV dealer will sell accessible RVs, but they are available across the country.
For example, if you’re looking for a small wheelchair accessible RV like the Winnebago Roam, their website can help you track it down. To find your local dealer, go to the Winnebago website. Click “Products” on the top menu, and a list of Winnebago’s RVs will appear. Under the Motorhomes section, there is a column for Accessibility Enhanced vehicles.
There you’ll see the Inspire and the Roam. Select which vehicle you’re interested in and scroll down the page to the Find the Nearest Dealers section and input your zip code. This will locate the best dealer for you.
These “dealerships will carry the accessible RVs in their inventory, however, if they are out of stock or there is a specific color that you would like, the dealer can order it for you from Winnebago,” adds Young.
Please note that for all of these RVs mentioned, there are wheelchair accessible and standard floor plans. Double-check with dealers that they offer the exact floor plan you are searching for.
You can buy an RV and have it shipped or delivered to you. Our writer, Ashley, has experience doing this a few times and shares her RV shipping expertise here.
Where to Find Wheelchair Accessible RV Rentals
To rent a handicap-friendly RV is a little more difficult. There are some available for rent on major RV rental sites like Outdoorsy and RV Share, though they can be challenging to find near you.
This Winnebago Inspire on Outdoorsy’s site is available for rent in North Carolina. However, it isn’t driveable per the owner’s restrictions. The owners will deliver it to your campsite of choice. This may limit where you can camp, but you can still have full access to the RV and your campsite with its accessibility features.
Cruise America shares that they do have wheelchair accessible RV rentals available, but you need to contact them directly for inventory.
Want to rent out your RV? Read this next: Is Renting Out Your RV Worth It? 3 Topics to Consider.
Brands like Winnebago and Newmar are leading the way with their accessibility enhanced RVs by “driving inclusion and allowing the outdoor lifestyle to be accessible for individuals that didn’t have access before.”
Whether you need to make your own small modifications for limited mobility or need a fully wheelchair accessible RV, you don’t have to say no to exploring the world.
Thank you to Winnebago Industries for letting us share photos of accessibility enhanced RVs.