Many of us will suffer from decreased mobility as we get older. Usually it takes the form of reduced joint articulation and declining muscle strength. In addition, some of us will have the misfortune to suffer an accident or illness, which robs us of a more significant amount of mobility.
We’ve not met anyone, no matter how serious their mobility problems, whose quality of life hasn’t benefited from the camping experience. A bullish attitude won’t be sufficient though – you’ll need to think carefully about the likely problems and buy some specialist equipment to solve them.
A specially-adapted motorhome is the most popular choice of the disabled traveller. Some, if accompanied by carers, prefer to continue using their touring caravan or tent. The big advantage a motorhome has over a touring caravan and tent is that it isn’t necessary to transfer from the transport to the living area. This is particularly important if a transfer hoist, lift, or ramps are required to get aboard.
A great way to organise your thoughts is to divide a piece of paper into three columns. At the head of each column put one of the basic activities. These are Access, Driving, and Living.
Now run through what’s usually involved to carry out everyday activities and jot down any problems encountered and what’s needed to solve them. Then tour the dealers, specialist shops and services to look for something that will help with achieving success at each activity.
Caravanners should try getting in and out of both the tow vehicle and the caravan or motorhome. Decide whether you wish to accomplish this unaided by a carer. Wheelchair users will also need to make sure they can transfer to any lifting system every time and not just on ‘good days’. One set of lightweight portable folding ramps can be used for both the towcar and for the caravan. Electrically-operated 12V stand-on lifts are also available.
Those wheelchair users who can manage a few steps may find a double or triple wide-tread step and a sturdy grab handle or two will be sufficient to get them on-board. Others will have to use a robotised lifting seat such as a Turny to gain entry into the vehicle.
Whatever the method of access, if a wheelchair has to pass through, ensure the door is wide enough. A motorhome built on a panel van may well have an extra-wide full-height side sliding door suitable for wheelchair access, but other units will have to be specially adapted.
On offer is everything from a steering wheel knob (spinner) to voice- activated control of all auxiliary systems including heating/air-con, wipers, lights, indicators and horn. Drive-from-wheelchair systems are very sophisticated now, though if you’re a caravanner you’ll need to change your towcar for something with sufficient interior height.
Don’t forget to check with the DVLA whether there are any restrictions on your driving licence regarding vehicle class (type), transmission, weight and your entitlement to tow a trailer.
Do consider how you’re going to get the water and empty the waste or loo. Many just hook the Aquaroll or Wastemaster on to the back of their electrically propelled mobility scooter. This is fine for transporting the water, but what about emptying or filling? Disabled motorcaravanners usually require much less assistance as motorcaravans have large on-board water tanks.
It will pay to replicate the most helpful living aids used around the house (devices such as a one-handed can- opener and kettle cradles) and keep them in the ’van rather than rely on memory or a packing list.
Many motorcaravanners carry a mobility scooter in the ’van’s garage, on a rack, or on a trailer. KD (Knock Down) mobility scooters – ones that quickly and easily disassemble into several stowable components – will fit easily into a caravan seat locker, though be aware that many have small wheels that will struggle on campsites with no defined pitch access and/or long grass. Check the access statement on each Club Site page or call the campsite directly to confirm the site is suiatble for your specific needs. Choose a Club Site with Tarmac roads and either hardstandings or ‘all weather’ (reinforced) grass pitches. Siting a caravan on a pitch can be completed with a remote-controlled motorised mover and an electric battery drill attachment will lower and raise the corner steadies with ease.
Designed to be different
A standard caravan or motorhome with a few minor adjustments will often make a big difference, but sometimes a special unit needs to be designed from the outset to be able to accommodate those with the most limiting disabilities.
Before tackling your present unit in a well intentioned, but possibly misguided, flurry of DIY have a look at what the professionals can do for you. Providing certain conditions are met, a specially-adapted motorhome can be purchased VAT free. The disabled member of the party does not have to be the driver.
For caravans, only adaptations can qualify for VAT relief unless the caravan is specifically designed and built for disabled use. However, the Motability scheme can be used to assist in the leasing of a towcar, but there will be an additional premium payable for larger cars and SUVs. More enlightened lenders will count Disability Allowance paid at the higher rate as ‘income’ when assessing suitability for a loan to purchase a motorcaravan, touring caravan or towcar.
New members may not be aware of just how appealing our site network is. A careful glance at the symbols accompanying each site entry in our SiteSeeker book will reveal that most Club Sites cater for the walking disabled and the majority also offer separate facilities for wheelchair users. In addition, the Club has an ongoing programme to improve its site facilities for the more severely impaired but independent disabled travellers.
Holiday Site Managers and their staff are always happy to assist disabled members with siting and setting up their ’van, but please phone ahead if you are going to require help on arrival. More useful information is available in Your Big Sites Book which uses similar information symbols to indicate the level of dedicated facilities on the Club’s five-van Certificated Sites and listed commercial campsites.
We’re not finished yet! Providing you have your own facilities on board, a warm welcome awaits disabled travellers at any DA or Section weekend meet or Temporary Holiday Site.
Below is a useful list of services and suppliers that can help you acheve your camping goal.
*Please note inclusion on this page does not constitute endorsement by The Camping and Caravanning Club
Manufacturers and converters
Willing to undertake a one-off design and build, or alter one of their production models
Tel: 024 7630 4754
Tel 01752 892 200
NIRVANA MOBILITY Ltd
Tel 01227 751865
Tel 087000 270 055
DRIVING [D] ACCESS [A]
ALFRED BEKKER [D]
Tel 01377 241 700
AMF BRUNS UK [A]
Tel 01618 727 951
AUTOADAPT UK [A] [D]
Tel 0121 333 5170
BRIG-AYD CONTROLS [D]
Welwyn Garden City
Tel 01707 322 322
BRISTOL STREET VERSA [A] [D]
501 Bradford Road
Tel 0330 017 3117
CHRIS ELLIOTT ADAPTIONS [A] [D]
Tel 01733 333 023
CITY MOTOR SERVICES [A] [D]
Tel 02920 364 800
COACHBUILT GB [A] [D]
Tel 02476 304 754
COWAL MOBILITY AIDS [A] [D]
Tel 01494 714 400
DS & P MOBILITY ELECTRONICS [D]
Tel 01296 658 508
LODGESONS LTD [D]
Tel 08700 132 420
MOBILITY CONVERSIONS [D]
Tel 01617 459 737
Specialist chairs and lifts
ALL TERRAIN WHEELCHAIRS LTD
Tel 01952 504 623
Tel 01794 885 814
Tel 01622 730 519
Tel 01223 464 460
Tel 01509 268 400
UNWIN SAFETY SYSTEMS
Tel 01935 827 740
ROY WOOD TRANSITS
Tel 0118 979 0202
Parts, spares and accessories
SEW N SO’S
Tel 01775 767 633
Tel 01945 585 931
Here to help
BATH INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL ENGINEERING
Tel 01225 824 103
Medical engineering charity. Successful designs are made available on a ‘not for profit’ basis
DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT
Tel 08701 226 236
Driving licence and regulations
HM CUSTOMS & EXCISE (CHARITIES & HEALTHCARE TEAM)
Tel 08450 109 000
VAT notice 701/59 ‘Information on the zero-rating of VAT on the purchase of specially-adapted road vehicles’
Club Care Insurance
Club Care provide insurance policies designed by members of The Camping and Caravanning Club for members.