Having a disability or getting older doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors, we all know that. While there will be certain activities you cannot take part in, there are also plenty which you can enjoy just as much as anyone else. Motorhome and caravan holidays aren’t off the agenda either, as long as you know how to modify your vehicle to provide accessible accommodation. From lifts to help you access the caravan to internal adjustments to allow you to navigate once inside, this article will cover some of the measures that can be taken to enable you to enjoy a fantastic holiday on the road. The modifications don’t only cater for wheelchair users either – if you’re finding yourself a little less sprightly as time goes by, don’t give up your caravan, make it work for your new needs instead.
We have aimed to cover as much as possible in this article but would love to hear from you if you have discovered a wonder modification that has made your caravanning life more manageable. We’re sure there are quite a few readers that would be happy to learn from your experience too. Leave a comment and share your secrets – we’ll all thank you for it.
One of the most common modifications made to improve the accessibility of a caravan or motorhome is the fitting of access steps. As you may expect, there are a range of models available, all varying in size, function and cost.
Glide Rite are a reputable manufacturer of semi-automatic and electric power steps and we can recommend that you consider them as one of your options.
The Glide-Rite range of access steps includes the following:
- 450mm semi-automatic steps
- 600mm semi-automatic steps
- 450mm electric steps
- 600mm electric steps
- 1000mm electric steps
All of the models include a standard 270mm tread plate, mounting brackets, 12 month guarantee and a lightweight, sturdy construction. Semi-automatic steps feature a warning buzzer for the user’s safety, while the electric versions are fitted with automatic obstruction detection and a dashboard-mounted warning light. The Glide-Rite range are compatible with a wide selection of caravans and motorhomes.
Once you start to research accessibility equipment, you will soon realise just how many options are available. If your budget is limited and you are considering purchasing second hand equipment from eBay or similar, always inspect the goods before committing to buy to ensure they are fully functional and safe to use. Remember to check that the model on offer is compatible with your caravan or motorhome too.
It is always a good idea to speak to local caravanners and retailers to see if you can source the equipment through word of mouth, rather than relying on the goodwill of a stranger. If you can’t find a recommended seller, you may at least manage to find someone with enough expertise to check potential purchases thoroughly. Chances are the used equipment is fine, but it is always better to be safe than sorry, particularly when it comes to personal safety and wellbeing.
It is also worth speaking to your local dealership as they may well stock hand rails that can be fitted to doors and wider, more stable steps that can help. John Wickersham recently presented a piece on the Caravan Channel about steps -
Coachbuilt GB Independence Vehicles
If you need a considerable amount of modification to your existing caravan or motorhome to cater for your requirements, it may be worth investing in a custom-fitted one instead. Coachbuilt GB offer a range of new and used caravans and motorhomes, adapted to suit your specific needs.
Some of the features which tend to be installed in the independence vehicles include:
- Wet room
- Wide doors
- Wheelchair access throughout the caravan or motorhome
- Drop-down beds
- Wheelchair restraints for use while travelling
- Driver hand controls
- Shower beds and chairs
- Ceiling track hoists
Coachbuilt GB also offer motorhome hire and bespoke modifications for those who would like to have an existing caravan or motorhome adapted to fit changing requirements. Coachbuilt GB are currently the only UK organisation qualified and authorised to carry out these modifications, something to bear in mind when weighing up your options.
Buying a caravan or motorhome for modification
If you intend to buy a caravan or motorhome in order to have it modified to cater for additional needs, it is important to do your research first and ensure that the model you choose is suitable for the adjustments you require. A reputable supplier of accessibility aids will let you know if yours isn’t suitable for their products, but this won’t come to light until after you have spent a considerable sum of money on your new vehicle.
Buying a modified vehicle also requires a certain level of research before committing to a purchase. While the adjustments may sound great on paper, you will need to make sure that they do actually make access and navigation easier for you. Again, failing to do so could result in a very costly mistake.
To avoid financial disasters of this kind, ask the following questions when shopping for a caravan or motorhome:
- Will the caravan or motorhome fit where you intend to park or store it?
- If you need a wide entry door, is there one fitted? If not, can it be done?
- How much does the vehicle cost, including any extra modifications that may be required?
- Are the controls suitable? If not, will replacing them fit within budget?
- Do the cab seats swivel?
- Does the caravan or motorhome include ramps or a wheelchair lift?
- Is the payload sufficient for any modified equipment you may want to add?
- Will the internal layout allow you to navigate easily and without too many obstructions?
- Can you move from wheelchair to seat and back again?
- Are the light switches and other fittings within easy reach?
- Is the shower big enough to allow easy access?
- Can you operate all appliances and equipment? Remember to check the shower, toilet and sinks too
- Is there room to store a wheelchair (if required) or any other equipment you will need to take along?
- Are tables and worktops at a suitable height?
- Does the caravan or motorhome suit your individual requirements? Does it tick all the boxes for what you wanted from your new vehicle?
The questions which are relevant to you will, of course, vary and you may have numerous others which we haven’t added to our list. Take the time to consider what you want, need and can do without before viewing any caravans or motorhomes, remembering to write it all down so you don’t forget anything important on viewing day.
Should you think of an important factor after you have viewed the vehicle, don’t be afraid to contact the dealer and ask. It is essential that the caravan or motorhome is perfect for you and they should understand that.
Caravan Club accessible sites
According to the Caravan Club, approximately 30,000 members have some form of disability requiring additional support or equipment while caravanning. For this reason, the Club have modified a number of their sites to cater for additional needs, with 148 sites adapted to be accessible to wheelchair users, and a further 12 suitable for walking disabled.
The accessible sites can be found by selecting the appropriate facility on the Site Search page.
The Caravan Club also offers a Help Welcomed sticker, which can be displayed in the window of your caravan or motorhome to notify staff that you may need assistance.
The Bruce Trust
The Bruce Trust was formed 1988 in order to provide accessible holidays to people with disabilities. Having started with boating holidays, the Trust has now expanded to offer modified motorhomes too. More information can be found in an earlier article we published on the topic.
Of course, there are numerous ways in which you can enjoy a caravan or motorhome holiday with a disability, and the options we covered in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. While we cannot recommend any specific providers, a quick internet search will reveal a huge selection of modified motorhome dealerships, holiday ideas and shops selling specialist equipment.
Whichever option you choose, remember to research carefully, carry out your own inspections and checks and, above all, enjoy your holiday.
Before you travel, make sure you have travel insurance in place which covers any medical conditions. Certain conditions can make it tricky to obtain travel insurance, however, we are delighted to provide specialist cover. Visit our travel insurance page for more information or call us on 01480 402460.