|Caravan for the Disabled|
This note is intended to convey an introduction to ourselves and to give a little information about how we enjoy caravaning and the freedom it has given us. Disabilities take many forms and what suits us may not suit others but from this note a reader should be able to decide whether caravanning is suitable for them or not. Following a horse riding accident in 1981 my wife Wendy is now paraplegic (T5). She has full use of her upper body and arms and permanently uses a wheelchair. She is able to transfer unaided to seating and beds of the right height and can drive our adapted car if need be but does not tow the caravan. We were fed up with the restrictions encountered with other forms of holiday and the continual struggle to find suitable accommodation when ever we wanted to go away. We took delivery of our first Caravan (a modified 4 berth Abbey Somerset) in Easter 1989 which we towed with a Citroen BX 19 Diesel Estate. This met our needs for 3 years and proved its worth. We also learnt more about what we required from a caravan and, in 1992, we traded it in for a modified Elddis Typhoon GTX, which we were very happy with. Initially we towed this with a Volvo 740 Petrol Estate but for improved performance and economy we changed to a Volvo 850 Diesel Estate in 1996.We averaged 3,000 towed miles per year and used the caravan all year round. We found new friends through rallying on average 10 times per year and in addition to holidays in this country, where we have used farm sites as well as commercial sites, we have travelled extensively on the continent. If there are roads and ferries, we now consider there is nowhere we cannot go. With a modified caravan, Wendy could, unaided, wash, shower and use the toilet with the same ease as at home. Therefore we did not have to seek out sites suitable for the disabled although for long stays we liked these facilities to be available.
Apart from Wendy’s disability we both enjoy good health. I tell you this because to caravan successfully I consider it essential that one partner is able bodied. Once the basics of towing have been mastered, unhitching, site setting up with the exception of an awning, and packing up and hitching up can be done by one person. With Wendy’s help the awning can be erected and hitching up is also easier.
Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to buy one of the few second hand adapted caravans that become available from time to time, your only option is to purchase a model for modification.
Apart from finance, the major considerations are :
2. Unless you can find someone to custom build a model, seek a layout that most closely meets your needs and proceed as in 1. above. Our experience is a 4 berth, end toilet, side dinette layout is most suited to modification for wheelchair users. Either way the purchase is usually VAT free.
3. I accept that I will have to do more for Wendy in the caravan than at home, e.g. help with cooking, in turn Wendy has to accept more frustrations. Our view is the rewards are worth it. Apart from carrying a wheelchair in the caravan the only other necessary aid we need is a set of telescopic lightweight ramps which are used to gain access to the caravan. In many years of searching we have not found anything better than these for lightness and portability. However it does mean that Wendy cannot leave or enter the caravan unaided.
In January 2001 we exchanged our caravan for a motorhome.