A New Frontier: Renting Accessible RVs
By Sherry Karabin
The ability to take an excursion to one of
Americas many campgrounds in an RV is something many people take for
granted. But for the physically challenged, there are serious obstacles to
embarking upon such a trip, starting with the fact that there are few RVs for
rent that can meet the needs of this group.
But now, a unique partnership between
Fairlawn, Ohio-based RVShare and the nonprofit organization RVing Accessibility
Group Inc. is offering a solution to this problem by connecting owners of these
specialized RVs with renters.
RVShare (http://www.rvshare.com) made its debut on the
Internet in December 2013. Its goal is to provide a platform for RV owners and
renters. Pagosa Springs, Colorado-based RVing Accessibility Group focuses on
educating its RV and campground industry members about current compliance
standards for people with disabilities.
The two have different objectives, but
they have one important thing in common: a love and appreciation of RVing. It
was during a November 2014 trade show in Las Vegas that RVShare owners Mark
Jenney, Joel Clark and Patrick Couch got their first glimpse of the uphill
battle facing physically challenged individuals who want to take their
vacations on the road.
We stopped by RVing Accessibility
Groups booth and started talking about how a large portion of the country
has accessibility needs and how there are few accessible RVs available for
rent, Clark said. It really struck a chord with us since we
aggregate all the RV rentals in the country.
Our group has been working hard to
help make campgrounds accessible, said Sabrina Thompson, an outdoor
accessibility advocate and volunteer for RVing Accessibility Group.
While there are manufacturers that
make accessible RVs, they are privately owned, Thompson said. Most
people are not going to invest in buying an expensive vehicle without first
deciding how they feel about RVing, so we are trying to make it easier for
people to find rentals so they can have the same chance to fall in love with
RVing as those without physical challenges.
Renting an accessible RV is hugely
frustrating, said Kevin Hansen, president of World Wheelchair Sports in
Hansen broke his neck in a skiing
accident in 1975 and is now in a wheelchair. As someone who enjoys the
outdoors, he has been trying to get his wife to take a trip with him in an RV
to see how she feels about it. The problem is, there is never any thing
available, or if there is a vehicle, it may require a cross-country trip just
to pick it up.
This is beginning to change,
Hansen said. I think a site like RVShare is long overdue, since it is
filling an important need. I also think that any place that rents or sells RVs
should have at least one accessible vehicle available. It makes good business
Cheri Fiducia, RV rental manager at
Guaranty RV in Junction City, Ore., said she has received a number of calls
from people interested in ability-equipped coaches.
She said she has ordered an Itasca
Sunstar accessible RV. The vehicle is expected to arrive in the middle of June,
and reservations are being taken for July.
People who are not able to walk on
their own may need features like a power roll-up door, a power lift, roll-in
shower, lower shelves and switches as well as doors that are wide enough for a
wheelchair, Fiducia said. They cannot rent just any RV.
Our owner is very active within the
accessibility community, said Marshall White, marketing director at
Guaranty RV. He has a disability himself, so it is very important to him
to provide freedom of mobility to a wide range of guests.
White said that as the baby boomers age,
they will be looking for vehicles that meet various assistance needs.
Even if they are not in a wheelchair, they may need handrails or walk-in
showers. Those dealers that meet their needs will reap the financial
Finding an accessible RV is only one part
of the equation; the other is the campground itself.
Jeff Sims, director of state relations and
program advocacy for the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds,
said his trade association works with members to help them understand and
comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We have developed a self-evaluation
form for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal for Priorities 1 through 4 (of the
ADA) and the recreational checklist for swimming pools, wading pools and
spas, Sims said.
Priority number one is the approach and
entrance, followed by access to goods and services, toilet rooms and additional
access, he said. Not everything on the list is readily achievable, but we
encourage members to have a transition plan in place.
In terms of making campgrounds
accessible, he said owners have to start at square one from the moment the
person pulls into the parks entrance, attacking accessibility issues each
step of the way, including the office, store, pool, playground, common areas
. People think that as long as a
restroom is near the campsite, it is accessible, Sims said. But
there is more to it. The person must be able to get through the door with the
wheelchair and fit into the stalls.
Some things, such as making trails
accessible, are even more challenging, he said.
Sims said that in 2011, the United States
Department of Justice set a mandatory deadline of March 15, 2012, for owners to
install pool lifts. The law says that the adjustments must be readily
achievable, which means they can be accomplished without much difficulty or
A number of campgrounds have made
the change, but some of the smaller ones, which have limited revenue, are
developing compliance plans for the future. Technically, ADA campsites are not
currently mandated to make public accommodations under Title III of the
Sims said that will happen in the future,
but the industry is doing its best to embrace the changes now based on the
United States Access Boards new Standards for Outdoor Developed Areas. He
said those standards currently apply only to national parks and other outdoor
areas developed by the federal government. But Sims said the U.S. Access Board
intends to develop guidelines for non-federal outdoor sites covered by the
Americans with Disabilities Act under Title III.
The reason for getting a jump-start on
the requirements now is simple, Sims said. We are an outdoor hospitality
industry, and we want to ensure that all people can enjoy the
Sherry Karabin writes for the American Bar Association
and the Akron Legal News and is a freelance on-camera reporter for PMCM-TV in