Hi, Friends! I’m Emily, and I’d love to let you in on what it’s really like to live in a (very...
RVing is for Everyone: Accessibility in Focus
When you think about camping and spending time in the great outdoors on an RV adventure, what comes to your mind first? Most likely it is...... freedom. You're probably thinking about wide open spaces, hiking mountain passes, bicycling over winding trails, and kayaking along a riverbank. What happens, then, when you or someone in your family has accessibility challenges?
When mobility becomes an issue, is the RV lifestyle and enjoying the outdoors unrealistic? The answer is NO WAY. I'd love to share a story with you of how one RV family is making it work and spreading the news that RVing and enjoying every kind of terrain in the great outdoors is for everyone!
Meet Kristy and TJ and their children, Nikki and Robbie. Kristy was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview about her family and how they make life on the road work for their family! Robbie is 7 years old and has intractable Epilepsy, which means despite many medications, brain surgery, and special diets, he continues to have daily seizures. It started when he was 6 months old with a rare form of Epilepsy known as Infantile Spasms, and his seizures have continued to persistently evolve over time. Although he is 7, he is developmentally more like a 6-9-month-old child.
"It took him over 3 years to sit up, 4 years to crawl, and 5 years to stand. He still cannot walk, but we have faith with time and all of his efforts he will get there! He is also nonverbal, but this likely doesn’t mean what you think. He is truly the loudest one in our house; he just doesn’t use language. He is the happiest little boy and brings our family so much joy!"
Robbie's neurologist recommended him for the Make A Wish program, and Kristy and TJ knew right away they had to do something that would get him safely outside as much as possible. Because Robbie loves road trips and the pandemic had made traveling with a medically fragile child difficult, the family wished for a camper.
"Having a camper with a special needs child is a completely different ballgame. At 4’2” and 60 lbs, Robbie can no longer use changing stations in public restrooms and is still in diapers and is fed through a Gtube in his stomach. For us, being able to pull over and have a clean bed to change him/feed him on was life-changing. If we need to take breaks or grab lunch, our house on wheels is right behind us! At his size, even the shower situation is great because RVs come with detachable shower heads so he can sit on the shower floor while we bathe him. I share all of this because I originally had thought the RV life was meant for retirees, but that is truly not the case anymore! Everyone is meant to be outdoors and the RV life is meant for you too!"
How do you choose accessible destinations?
When I first came across Kristy's Instagram profile, I was shocked at some of the locations she and her family have ventured with Robbie! They truly do not allow Robbie's inability to walk to slow the down. There have been several times that their photos have inspired me to get off my behind and go for a hike!
"Honestly, we choose an area that we want to explore and begin the research process to find what is accessible to our family. Accessibility means something different for everyone. Some need full wheelchair access, or maybe a regular hike is fine but no elevation increase. For us, we have found something everywhere we have gone so far that we could make work for our family. Sometimes for Robbie, accessibility means his Dad carries him on his back if we find something epic that isn’t too strenuous. A prime example was Mesa Arch at Canyonlands. The trail is not long and not wheelchair friendly so we were able to find a way to make it work."
The most accessible National Parks this inspiring family has visited so far:
Yellowstone- "There is so much to see from your vehicle, and almost every thermal feature has an accessible boardwalk."
The Grand Canyon- "The entire rim is paved, and you can walk or roll for miles!"
Rocky Mountain National Park- "So much wildlife to see from the car, and a lot of short flat trails around lakes! We took more photos here than any other park because the scenery is just amazing."
What would make life easier for those that need to consider accommodations while traveling?
"If you want to help with our cause, we truly appreciate when people take the time to share accessibility information in their travel posts or even just be willing to give as many details as they can remember once asked. I will always double-check and do my due diligence once we get a suggestion. Some people have gone as far as providing photos of the small sets of stairs or inclines to expect."
Kristy and TJ's goal with their online presence is to inspire other families of any ability to get outdoors and enjoy Mother Nature. Building a community where families can share experiences and travel tips with each other is a lifeline to so many. You can follow them on Instagram and TikTok at @accessible.adventures, and if you happen to find yourself at a location with an accessibility insight... tag them and let them know! Kristy will be sure to share!
Kristy's family got me thinking about other RV accessibility challenges for those who want a life of freedom on the road. Admittedly, my own RV has some tight spaces and steps that would make it impossible for a wheelchair to access the space without modifications. Luckily, there are professionals dedicated to modifying existing RVs to maximum comfort and accessibility for everyone! Ramps, extensions, rails, and electronic components can be easily added to your rig through companies like Drive-Master Mobility Manufacturers are also making accessible factory and custom builds with lifts and accommodations, like the Winnebago Adventurer 30TAE .
If someone in your family has an accessibility challenge, do you have any tips and tricks that work for you? Do you have a location that has been especially challenging or rewarding that you'd like to share with others? Maybe you've been adventuring recently and have noticed an especially accomodating vista that could make someone's day! We'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below! Consider hitting 'subscribe' so you never miss a post!