Spinal Cord Injury Community

The Road Less Traveled

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
02/11/22  2:40 PM PST

Bring Access With You

Get out and go see the world… Remember that from 2019? It has been two years since COVID-19 first forced us inside and to reimagine how we would live life. We put away dreams of a summer vacation, trips to see the family during the holidays, and even a drive to the grocery store was put into question.

Now, America is largely vaccinated and the idea of “getting out” seems to be more of a reality as the summer months approach. But living with a spinal cord injury or pre-existing condition can still leave us questioning what kinds of travel are safe.

Before COVID-19, my wife and I spent days in and out of airports, train stations, bus terminals and Ubers. We filmed a series, “Mobility in the City”, and traveled the United States in search of accessible adventures with the help of public transportation. Now, I am a father and jaunting off with my wife and baby in “exploration” seems a little chaotic with feeding and sleep schedules that need to be maintained – and I’m not just talking about our daughter, Cayla.

Here comes my newest idea for travel – get out there with what you have access to! Instead of finding the to-do’s in cities that are accessible, I plan to bring accessibility with me.

 

Recreational Vehicle (RV)

Let’s start with the top-of-the-line luxury road trip rig – The highly coveted, fully accessible recreational vehicle (RV). I love a good road trip – It can offer a chance to relax at your own pace with your friends and family while exploring far off places. Traveling in a car or wheelchair accessible van is nice and all, but having your home on wheels is, in my opinion much more enjoyable.

There are two major RV brands that manufacturer wheelchair accessible motorhomes – Winnebago and Newmar. Their accessible models are built as additions to their product lines  and are not aftermarket adaptations.

In 2019 Winnebago introduced its Accessibility Enhanced (AE) model line of wheelchair accessible RVs. These inclusive vehicles feature wheelchair lifts, roll-in showers, thoughtfully designed, space saving seating and ample room to roll throughout. The 2021 line-up includes the Winnebago Adventurer and Winnebago Inspire. Click HERE to learn more.

For half a century the Newmar Corporation had produced some of the industries highest-quality luxury motorhomes, with five models that include wheelchair accessible floor plans. Each of Newmar’s accessible models was designed using direction and oversight from wheelchair users, every coach in the Newmar Mobility Lineup is meticulously crafted to deliver uncompromising accessibility, so you can feel right at home no matter how far you roam. Each one includes the premium amenities, a roll-in shower with built-in shower seat, roll-under sinks, wide hallways and a premium wheelchair lift. The floor plans, starting prices and additional information can be found HERE.

If owning an RV isn’t an option, but renting one for a short time is, locating a wheelchair accessible motorhome on the rental market in my experience, can be quite challenging.

Here are two resources I have found somewhat useful for RV rental – Outdoorsy (tick the ADA Accessible checkbox under Guests in the RV search) and RV Share (there is no filter for wheelchair accessibility). You’ll have to be patient and dig deep to find a wheelchair-friendly RV on those websites. All the more reason to plan your trip way ahead.

 

Conversion Van

Conversion vans have become quite popular, so much so that an award winning film called Nomadland hit the big screen in 2020. Full-size vans like the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Ram Promaster are retrofitted with all the amenities needed for what is now referred to as the “van life.” These van conversions include beds, toilets, refrigerators, microwaves and more. The vehicles can be made wheelchair accessible, too; I wrote a blog about my friend Kirk Williams and his heavily modified Ford Transit adventure van, which you can read HERE.

Over the course of the past year a ton of new van conversion companies have popped to supply the demand, companies such as:

Benchmark Vehicles

Sportsmobile

Moxie Van Co.

The Van Smith

For myself, I have a 2008 Ford Econoline Cargo Van that over time I’ve been slowly converting. Over the years it has held plenty of bicycles, wheelchairs, and lawn chairs for passengers (shhh!). But since adding to our family, I found an inexpensive, used bench seat – with seatbelts – on Facebook Marketplace for additional seating and bedding for the baby. I also upgraded the wheels, tires, stereo and flooring. It now holds five passengers, our bicycles, my wheelchair, Cayla’s stroller and whatever else we need to carry along our way.

Click HERE to read a blog I shared about driving my van with a spinal cord injury.

In all of my research I have found a lot of pre-owned inventory out there, it just boils down to your specific needs and wants. Also, I know these items are wants and not needs, and are quite costly. I am just happy to share the information.

So while we all navigate a world of heightened travel caution, I will, instead of booking a flight, invest my time and money in my family, friends and the freedom of the open road.

 

Disclaimer: All products and companies mentioned within this blog are unpaid, unsponsored and unsolicited personal references by me, Aaron Baker. The content is based upon my personal experience and research. Thank you for reading.

Stay safe and enjoy the drive!

Aaron

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I have c6 injury and I have lots of spasm in my whole body. What can you suggest to help?
Rahul
I have found that consistent stretching, light exercise, plenty of water, quality food and rest all affect my spasticity.


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