A guide to Caravanning for the Disabled and Elderly
Caravanning is a wonderful way to tour the country, explore new places and enjoy the great outdoors, but for those who are disabled or elderly spontaneity is often stalled by the need for comprehensive planning.Making considered purchasing decisions, necessary alterations to your caravan interior and researching a list of campsites and attractions that are easily accessible for those with any level of impaired mobility will speed up the process and help you have a safe and enjoyable break.
1. Make access as easy as possible
The first hurdle faced by wheelchair users or those with limited mobility is actually getting into caravans in the first place. Most manufacturers consider mobility issues when designing caravans and there are specialist firms who can adapt new or existing vehicles to suit individual requirements. Depending on the level of adaptation needed, most modern caravans can easily be fitted with ramps, grip handles and extra wide sliding doors suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Make sure you can get in and out of your motorhome or caravan unaided, and plan for particularly bad days when your mobility is the most restricted. Portable folding ramps are ideal for a short rise or a few steps, and can be used for access to a wide range of vehicles. Powerstep lifts are another option, available in both stand on or wheelchair versions and are perfect for accessing the home, caravan or mobile home. Sturdy handrails placed at the right height and in the correct places will further aid safe and easy entry.
2. Carefully consider your layout
It’s crucial to make sure you have chosen the right caravan to suit your specific needs. Consider a caravan where the bathroom consists of a WC and a shower in the same cubicle to enable you to shower whilst seated. A caravan with a fixed bed will also make life easier, as there is no need to move furniture and cushions around at night and in the morning. Converted bunks can also be lower than a fixed bed unit, which can cause problems for some. Consider investing in specialist memory foam mattress for additional support and comfort.
It’s also important to think about the layout of the kitchen and living areas. You can widen entrances and internal doors to make the caravan more accessible, and also remove fixed items of furniture to allow a wheelchair to turn a full circle within the caravan. Kitchen work surfaces should be at the correct height for a wheelchair user or person with limited mobility to manoeuvre without difficulty. Bathrooms should have rails to make them useable, and the caravan should have appropriate storage for mobility scooters, wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
For further guidance and support, take a look at our guide to buying a new caravan.
3. Invest in appropriate driving aids
The next step is to choose your towing vehicle. This can be a VAT free purchase if you are in receipt of Mobility Allowance or you can buy it through the Motability Scheme. Make sure that your vehicle meets all the weight requirements for your caravan, and think about investing in an electric motor mover to operate the caravan by remote control without the car. This can take the anxiety out of setting up camp if you find it more difficult to move around.
For those with severely restricted mobility, infra-red steering devices can help divers to operate secondary controls in a safe and painless manner while lightened power steering makes it possible to spin the steering wheel with just one finger. Other sophisticated steering device adaptations such as steering balls/knobs or bespoke driving gloves can cater for your specific needs and provide the control you need.
4. Pick the right site for your requirements
When you feel comfortable with your choice of caravan and towing vehicle, it’s time to hit the road. Many caravan sites have excellent facilities for disabled caravanners, although if you have suitable facilities within the caravan these might not be so important. The Camping and Caravanning Club has an on-going programme of accessibility improvements across its sites and clearly publicises an accessibility rating on every Club site.
For those with limited mobility, it’s worth checking that there is mostly level access to the main areas of the site and that all main areas have hard surfaced paths. Uneven surfaces, pebbles and gravel can cause problems for wheelchair users and those with scooters. Parking will need to be either on your pitch or just opposite, with ramped access to reception buildings and shops. Make sure that assistance dogs are welcome, and check if communal toilet and shower facilities are suitably kitted out.
5. Protect your caravan and equipment
Regardless of how well equipped you think your caravan is, you’re never completely covered without proper caravan insurance. A comprehensive insurance policy from Shield will take into consideration damage or theft of your caravan and its contents, which could include anything from ramps and walking sticks to wheelchairs – items some people simply cannot do without. Get a quote today or request a callback at a time that’s convenient for you.
We understand just how important your mobility scooter or power chair is to your everyday life, so we also offer mobility insurance with premiums starting at just £22.42 for the whole year. With no age limit, our mobility insurance policies promise to protect you against accidental damage and theft, the breakdown or damage to your vehicle and personal accident/injury plus much more. With a comprehensive policy in place, there is no reason why anyone with a mobility impairment shouldn’t carry on caravanning – so get a quote today and see how much you could save!