RVing with special physical needs

Farm Forum

“Travel and outdoor enthusiasts with special physical needs are recapturing their mobility and enjoying time on the road in Recreation Vehicles,” reports the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. “RVs are the ideal way for everyone to experience the open road in convenience, comfort and style.”

It’s smart business for RV manufacturers to build in factory modifications before delivery. Two of the companies that offer such adaptations are Winnebago Industries ( and Foretravel Motorcoach (

“Making motorhomes more accessible and comfortable for an individual or a family to use and enjoy is a big part of why we offer this service,” said Sonya Kobriger, sales representative with Winnebago Industries. “We try to involve the customer in many of the desired modification decisions whenever possible so that the finished product really is `their’ motorhome.”

“Foretravel has a special ability to adapt our motor coaches because we build our own chassis in-house, which allows for various modifications,” said Eddie Hill of Foretravel’s marketing department. In addition to the wheelchair lift, another available adaptation is “a ceiling rail system that will allow the occupant to be hoisted and travel safely throughout the coach.” Other modifications include widening entrances and interior pathways, lowering kitchen counters and cabinets, and designing roll-in showers.

Lori and Mike Sanders of California are retirees who have been full-time RVing for five years. Mike Sanders was born with Spina Bifada and has a shortened, deformed right leg. “He got around pretty well for 60 years before developing severe osteoarthritis, which put him on crutches,” said Lori Sanders.

The crutches did not stop Mike Sanders from traveling — or playing. They purchased a Polaris RZR off-road ATV and acquired a 2005 33-foot Desert Fox 28KS toy hauler in order to take their four-wheeler with them. A toy haul trailer features a rear end that drops down, forming a ramp for access into a garage area where motorized toys can be safely stored. The full-time RVers are currently having a 37-foot gooseneck fifth-wheel toy hauler custom-made.

“The living quarters are about the same on each rig,” said Lori Sanders, “but the new one has better handicap features.”

Best of all, “we will be able to take all our toys with us including a canoe, the RZR, and two Segways,” said Lori Sanders. The Segway ( with its off-road wheels and tires, and an aftermarket seat, “makes it possible for Mike to go just about anywhere, many more places than a wheelchair could go.”

Evan and Terri Young, 40-somethings from Whitesville, Ky., are avid four-wheel enthusiasts who selected a toy haul trailer for their RV.

At the age of 20, Evan Young was in a car accident that left him partially paralyzed. He was determined to pick up the pieces and continue with life as normally as possible. That included driving off-road vehicles.

In 2013 they “searched high and low for an accessible toy haul camper to fit our needs and remain within our budget,” said Terri Young. “The only place in the United States we could find who already had wheelchair-accessible floor plans was Dune Sport, of Mesa, Arizona.”

The Youngs worked closely with Dune Sport ( on special adaptations to their 28-foot Firestorm, such as increasing the size of the bathroom by almost 2 feet. “Our camper contains one of the biggest bathrooms you can get: 8-foot by 5-foot with a 36-inch by 36-inch shower. It is almost big enough for Evan to completely turn around without bumping into the shower or commode,” said Terri Young.

The vast majority of the campgrounds are not handicap-friendly. Mark Douglass of Pagosa Springs, Colo., started the nonprofit RVing Accessibility Group ( just two years ago because of the limited number of accessible campgrounds he has visited during his years as a disabled traveler.

Douglass was born with severe mobility impairments and after numerous surgeries, is currently able to walk. He and his wife, Ellie, have camped at more than 600 campgrounds in their 2004 Newmar motor coach. “Of those hundreds of parks,” he said, “we would only go back to 57, and of those only two met all of the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.”

“I want to educate the RV and campground industries on the most current standards for ADA compliance regarding accommodations for people with disabilities, regardless of age, injury or illness. I am passionate about helping others find places they can visit without sacrificing one’s dignity or independence.”