By Garth Cane

Modern technology has provided many new adaptive devices to make traveling easier for someone who needs help getting in and out of their RV, driving from one location to another, and using the showers and facilities in the campgrounds. These advances allow physically challenged RV’ers who use scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, and artificial limbs to participate in the outdoor lifestyle, and drive their RV across the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 report, there are around 3.6 million people over the age of 15 who use a wheelchair, with an additional 11.6 million people using a cane, crutches or walker to get around. To serve these large markets, Winnebago goes beyond offering customers a sense of travel and adventure with an accessibility-enhanced motorhome. These vehicles reduce the need for extra planning related to out of town or local travel, provide more options for service animals, and give owners comfort in knowing they’ll always have a wheelchair-friendly bathroom and sleeping arrangement.

We have lost many service men to action in the war zones, but thousands more are returning home without the use of their arms and legs. My oldest son survived a parachute jump when he was in the armed forces and spent several years in rehab as he recovered from many surgeries to his spine, pelvis and legs. He is founder of the Canadian Armed Veterans Motorcycle Group that raises money to help injured soldiers returning from the war effort overseas. He was recently awarded a medal by the Governor General of Canada for raising 7.5 million dollars to help service men and women walk again.

Winnebago Industries has developed three new accessibility-enhanced Rvs that have opened up a wider and richer world to make travel for families and day trips easier. Just over twenty years ago, Jerome Moore was a senior in high shool when an devastating injury left him without the use of his legs. The Moores tried air travel which is as hard on the wheelchair as it is on the passenger. Since they purchased their new modified Winnebago Adventurer, they can leave the house with confidence, and excitement, rather than anxiety and stress. The Moore’s see themselves taking trips like family reunions and vacations in the future.

“Before our accessibility-enhanced Winnebago, the thought of going on vacation with our son Patrick ,who was struck as he stepped onto a crosswalk, was more stressful than just staying at home,” said Mike Freeman, Winnebago Forza 34T owner. “Most people take for granted the ability to hop in a car, plane, train at will to take a vacation, visit friends and family, or explore a new destination. Our accessibility-enhanced RV has opened up a wider and richer world for our whole family and even makes day trips easier.

For four years, my wife and I struggled with the problems of moving her wheelchair out of the house with a wheelchair lift and trying to transfer her to a car. At the time our motorhome was not equipped with a lift, so vacation travel was out of the question at that time.  We found that many RV dealers and manufactuers are not certified by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) or the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to modify RVs because of liability insurance requirements and crash test requirements. Therefore, it is always wise to talk to the specialty vehicle branch of Winnebago before purchasing a vehicle for modification.

Today, you can talk with a specialist like Sonya Kobriger who has worked at Winnebago for close to 25 years. She will help you through the complicated aspects of building an Ability Enhanced coach that is designed specifically for you. Over the years, she has become a true expert in mobility challenged design. Jamie Sorenson, the Director of Specialty Vehicles and Advanced Technology, can help individuals determine the options that are available before they order a specific coach from their local dealer.

Wider doors are a necessity to allow wheelchairs or scooters access to an RV, so manufacturers often install a separate door with a lift in addition to the regular entrance door used by other members of the family. Interiors must be wide enough to allow access not only the living area, but to the bath and shower. Wheelchairs need to be able to roll into the shower stall and sinks need to be higher to allow legroom underneath. Transfering from the wheelchair to the toilet can be a chore in a confined space. We found that standing assist bars were invaluable to move from a seated to standing position and provide stability in the shower.  A trapese handle mounted above the bed will help you to easily transfer into the bed and a track mounted to the ceiling will allow easier movement around the coach.

Microwaves and refrigerators are often lowered to keep things within reach and covers are installed to prevent the wheelchairs or scooters from accidently rolling into the entry stepwell.  TVs and VCRs are easily equipped with remote controls, and TV and satellite antennas can be fitted with motorized lifting and rotating mechanisms that can be controlled from your chair.

Lumadome vent covers are often equipped with rain sensors to automatically raise and lower for fresh air entry. Most RVs today have a motorized awning installed to allow you to enjoy the shade and a dry area next to the doorway. Horn buttons are often installed in several places in the coach, three quick beeps on the horn at night will quickly tell others campers that you need help.

Aiming to bring greater freedom and comfort to people traveling in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, Winnebago  has launched three accessibility-enhanced motorhomes, the Intent 30R AE, Adventurer 30T AE, and Forza 34T AE. The new wheelchair-friendly models, based on the company’s 40 years of experience customizing its models for customer accessibility, are available in three standardized floorplans that include the most commonly requested options.

With accessibility enhancements made to approximately 40% of the design features in the coach, these vehicles make mobile travel enjoyable and day-to-day living more effortless. The standardization of floorplans aims to make the accessibility option more visible to customers, as easy to purchase as a standard Winnebago, as well as provide economies of scale to help reduce costs to customers over time. 

The Easter Seals Society will help finance devices for children, and funds are available from the Worker’s Safety and Insurance Board for workplace related injuries, and many government agencies support the Assisted Devices Program. Local service clubs and churches often assist with the costs of wheelchairs, lifts and vehicles on an individual basis. Many people get insurance settlements as a result of automobile accidents that will allow them to purchase fully modified vehicles to carry on with their life as much as possible.

When I am on the road visiting campgrounds, I often encounter veterans who are able to travel as a result of a motorhome that has been equipped to make handicap travel realistic and enjoyable. An RV’er who has lost the use of his legs, still wants to be active and see the world. They do not want to give up camping.  Just because you are physically challenged does not mean that you have to give up travelling. Seize the day and Get Out And Live. Just remember, the fish don’t know if you are standing or sitting.  It is estimated that up to 56.7 million people in North America have some type of handicap. (19 per cent of the population.)

Handicapped Travel Club  

Adventurer 30T AE

  • Length 31’
  • Ford F53 Engine V10 6.8L
  • Winnebago Industries ext storage 118 CF
  • 78 gal FW
  • 6 gal HW
  • 80 gal Fuel gas
  • 18 gal propane
  • furnace 35000 btu
  • inverter 1000 w
  • generator 4000 w
  • GVWR 18000 #
  • GCWR 23000 #
  • starts at $229,941

Forza 34T AE

  • length 36’
  • Freightliner XCS engine 340 HP, ISB 6.7L
  • air suspension
  • air brakes
  • ext storage 153 CF
  • 84 gal FW
  • 10 gal HW
  • 90 gal fuel diesel
  • 23 gal propane
  • GVWR 26000 #
  • GCWR 30000 #
  • starts at $341,124

Intent 30R AE

  • length 30’10”
  • Ford F53 engine V10 6.8L
  • ext storage 83 CF
  • 51 gal FW
  • 6 gal HW
  • 80 gal fuel gas
  • 18 gal propane
  • furnace 35000 btu
  • inverter 1000 w
  • generator 4000 w
  • GVWR 16000 #
  • GCWR 23000 #
  • starts at $202,295

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