Accessible Camping 2002
By M. Gacioch © 2002

While disabled travelers may rarely consider the world of camping, there are amazing opportunities available to explore the great outdoors, which may surprise even the fussiest traveler.

Camping isn't necessarily anything as rustic as pitching a tent and using a squat toilet—although I know a few disabled people who enjoy the challenge of such an approach. No, camping in the 21st century encompasses everything from using a tent in a modern campground with roll-in shower facilities, to renting an accessible cabin or merely taking your own accessible RV or camper van. Of course, the latter method provides all the accessible amenities of taking your home along with you. The other options offer the same type of surprises we encounter when booking a supposedly accessible room in an unknown hotel. Access varies with every camping location, so recommendations and/or prior inquiries are necessary.

Let’s start with tent camping. If you’re a US resident and you’re serious about exploring the National Parks, which range from Wyoming's Yellowstone to Haleakala, Hawaii and from Arizona’s Grand Canyon to the Florida Everglades, pick up a copy of Easy Access to National Parks by Wendy Roth and Michael Tompane,

Their 404-page book includes access data on forty-five national parks, two national historical parks, four monuments, two national parkways, and dozens of state parks and national forest campgrounds. Since this book was published in 1992, newer parks are not included, and additional access amenities may now be available at the listed parks in this book. Be sure to contact your chosen park directly and make inquires before making reservations.

US disabled residents are eligible to receive a Golden Access Passport, which provides a lifetime entrance pass to all national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges that charge an entrance fee. The Golden Access Passport admits the pass owner and any accompanying passengers in the vehicle if a park has a per vehicle entrance fee

The Golden Access Passport also provides a 50% discount on federal use fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, parking, boat launching and tours. In some cases where use fees are charged, only the pass holder receives the 50% price reduction.

The pass may be obtained in person at federal national parks, historic sites and wildlife refuge areas where an entrance fee is charged.  Showing proof of a permanent disability entitles an applicant to the pass. For further information, visit www.nationalparks.org and
http://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm
 

Many US state parks may also have accessible facilities. For instance, I live in California and every state park has at least one disabled campsite. There is one not far from me at San Elijo State Park, which is right on a gorgeous beach.

However, California parks are still in the process of creating better access, so I never assume that each park has a completely accessible bathroom or roll-in shower without checking with the specific park first. To reach California State Parks, call 800-777-0369 where you can request free information. Visit their website at http://www.parks.ca.gov/ Or contact the Accessibility Office at (916) 445-8949 or e-mail them at: access@parks.ca.gov  

If an accessible log cabin in the woods is more to your liking, consider Wild Iris Shore in Wisconsin. http://www.homestead.com/wildiris/

Other states offer accessible cabins as well. Check out Texas State Park & Historic Sites website for a listing of accessible cabins. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/facilities/indoor.htm#cabin

RV camping in the US is extremely popular, and there are many very active disabled Rvers with accessible vans and motor homes. Hope Sykes who operates the Enabled Rver is one of them. Visit her site for a multitude of suggestions and links at http://maxpages.com/enabledrver

In 1973 the Handicapped Travel Club was established in 1973 by a group of disabled people who use RVs. Visit their site at http://www.handicappedtravelclub.com/ for a list of accessible RV parks in the U.S.

If you want to RV around Canada but don’t own an RV, Accessible RV Rentals in Vancouver rents them. Visit their site at http://www.accessiblerv.com/

While the U.S. has a multitude of accessible camp sites, Europe also offers some lovely facilities.

At his Access4Wheelies website Dany Aendenboom, of Belgium, provides excellent access data on campgrounds in Spain, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Dany also has links to accessible hotels and self-catering facilities. To learn more, visit http://www.access4wheelies.org/

In 1999, Dany sent us an excellent article on Accessible Camping in Europe, which can be viewed in the Global Access archives at http://www.geocities.com/Paris/1502/accessiblecampingineurope.htm

For additional information on camping in the Netherlands, consider Camping De Ruimte in Dronten, the Netherlands. Their 3-year-old campsite is reportedly100% accessible. They offer private bathrooms with chair, toilet and alarm, six toilets for wheelchair users, and everything in the camp shop can reportedly be reached from a wheelchair. To view the campsite facilities, visit their web page, which is only in the Dutch at the moment. www.campingderuimte.nl

Pete & Wendy’s Information Pages for the Less Able is a superb website that chronicles their many caravan trips throughout Europe. http://homepage.ntlworld.com/peter.dolphin/Our_intro.html Their most recent reports detail their travels through Switzerland and Portugal.

 In Germany, Rolli-Mobil rents accessible RVs. http://www.rolli-mobil.de/en/index.htm

Using a caravan (trailer) or RV is extremely popular in Britain as well. The Caravan Club provides a great online list of accessible caravan parks in the UK and Ireland at http://www.caravanclub.co.uk/ This club also publishes camping site guides for able-bodied people and helps facilitate visits to European campsites, which may include ferry crossings and insurance.

Hemmingway's Ltd. rents accessible caravans in the UK. Contact them at 56 Middle St, Brockham, Dorking, Surrey RH3 7HW. Telephone: 01737 842735.

Camping for the Disabled helps arrange camping trips for the physically disabled and produces lists of accessible campsites in the UK and France.
20 Burton Close, Dawley, Telford, Shropshire TF4 2BX
Tel: 01743 761889
Fax: 01743 761149

Britain’s Holiday Care Service provides information on accessible caravan parks in England, Scotland and Wales. Contact them at www.holidaycare.org.uk
E-mail: holiday.care@virgin.net  

Caravanning for You is another excelent place to network with RVers.
http://geocities.com/caravanning4u/

Visit the Caravan Sitefinder in the UK http://www.caravan-sitefinder.co.uk/features/disabled/ to discover some good networking opportunities for disabled campers.

Britain’s National Trust provides a listing of their properties with campsites. Seven of these sites have an accessible toilet and some offer disabled bathroom and shower facilities. Visit their website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/holidays/camping/default.asp and download the free pdf file.

The Royal Association for Disability & Rehabilitation (RADAR) also has information on accessible campsites in the UK and Ireland. Visit the RADAR Accommodation Search Engine at http://www.radarsearch.org/main.asp

Camping in Wales provides an accessible guide to camping and caravan sites in Wales http://www.fishing-in-wales.com/visitor/caravan1.htm

In Southwestern Scotland, Hoddom Castle Caravan Park provides disabled facilities, including a roll-in shower. http://www.disabilitycentral.com/activteen/magazine/relationships/kate_article_20.htm

Perhaps one of the most exotic camping adventures available is through a group called Accessible South Africa. With the use of a specially adapted bus, they explore the famous Kruger Park on an 8-day camping safari that gives the adventurers an up-close view of wild animals in their native habitat . A range of fully equipped accommodation is used, consisting of tented camps, bungalows and cottages in main and private camps. The tented camps provide a accessible bath and toilet facilities, and the bungalows and cottages have their own shower or bath. To learn more, visit http://www.accessiblesouthafrica.co.uk/pages/destinations/overland_adventure.htm  

As disabled travelers become more aware of the expanding world of accessible camping, many of us may occasionally swap that hotel bed for a camp cot.

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