A great source of wonder for motorhome owners is the sheer variety of outdoor experiences to be enjoyed around the UK. This is equally so for those of us with a disability or who are getting on in years. After all, there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy the pleasures of the open road just as much as anyone.
Motorhome holidays are the perfect option if you know how to modify your vehicle to provide you with the most accessible accommodation possible. As well as finding suitable motorhome insurance to cater for any changing needs, there are a whole host of modifications you can achieve.
From installing new access ramps and steps to internal adjustments, there are plenty of tweaks you can make if you know how.
So, whether you have a disability yourself or are travelling with someone who has, read on for what you should consider when adapting your motorhome for accessible adventures.
Disability in the UK
According to the latest Family Resources Survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics, there are over 14 million people reporting a disability in the UK – that is one in five of us.
With 19% of the working-age population, 8% of children and 44% of pension-age adults being disabled, accessibility is vital.
As we know, disabilities can’t always be seen and aren’t always physical. People are considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effects on their ability to do normal daily activities.
Of those reporting a disability, 27% reported a mental health impairment while the most common impairment was mobility at 48%.
In reality the impact of these disabilities on individuals is often exacerbated by the barriers existing in everyday life.
Such barriers include inaccessible buildings or facilities that prevent people from making use of them. There’s no use having state-of-the-art cooking or leisure facilities if a wheelchair user is prevented from taking advantage of them.
Touring in a motorhome is a way for people with a range of impairments to maintain the dignity and independence they enjoy when at home – just like any other member of our society.
While many campsite operators put accessibility and mobility at the heart of their ethos, it can be difficult for some to develop their site to accommodate all impairments.
That’s why it’s important for disabled travellers and their companions to plan ahead when buying and adapting a motorhome, arranging motorhome insurance and when searching for accessible sites in the UK.
Buying a motorhome for adaptation
Whether you’re a seasoned traveller adapting to changing circumstances or someone who’s just caught the camping bug, it’s worth thinking about what you consider to be the perfect camping experience.
By noting down your preferences and budget you’ll be able to narrow down the right motorhome or modification to suit you.
After all, someone who’s looking to simply pull up and relax with a good dose of fresh air in a new location will have different requirements to someone who’s passionate about kitesurfing!
Three key areas to keep in mind for disabled campers considering buying a motorhome are:
- Accessibility - getting in and out of your motorhome along with in and out of the living quarters should be uppermost in your mind.
- Driving - if you will be driving then adaptations to facilitate that might be necessary. This must be kept in mind from the beginning of your search. For example, realising early on that an automatic gearbox is essential will impact on your search.
- Living - all motorhomes come with their own particular requirements for setting up camp. So, think about what modifications may be required to help with these and other every day campsite challenges.
Once you’ve identified your requirements, then you need to do your research to make sure any model of motorhome you consider is suitable for adjustment. And that those adjustments will actually make your life easier.
Also, most suppliers of accessibility aids should be able to give you a definite answer as to whether their product(s) will fit your vehicle.
To avoid any unnecessary costs, ask the following questions when looking for a motorhome to buy for adaptation:
- Can the motorhome fit where you want to park or store it?
- Some modified vehicles can be heavy, do you have an appropriate driving licence to allow you to drive it?
- If you need a widened door to accommodate a wheelchair, is there already one fitted? If not, can it be done?
- Is the vehicle cost, including any extra modifications required, within budget?
- Are the overall running costs affordable?
- Are the driving controls suitable? If not, will replacing them be too expensive?
- Do the cab seats swivel to face other travellers in the back?
- Does the motorhome include a ramp or a wheelchair lift? Some dealers may add in extras to sweeten the deal.
- Does the motorhome have sufficient payload to cover the inclusion of any modified equipment?
- Will the internal layout allow you to move around the living quarters easily?
- Can you move from your wheelchair to the driver’s seat and back again easily?
- Are light switches and other necessary fixtures and fittings easy to reach?
- Is there easy access to the shower and toilet facilities and will you need to add any modifications in order to use them properly?
- Are you able to reach all internal appliances and equipment such as the shower, toilet and sinks?
- If one is required, is there space to store a wheelchair or any other equipment you need for an accessible trip?
- Are tables and worktops at a comfortable and safe height?
Once you’ve answered these questions, ask yourself again whether the motorhome still suits your individual needs.
There’s a huge variety of motorhomes on the market, so does it really tick all the boxes for what you want from your new vehicle?
There is an additional important consideration for those with power hungry needs such as mobility scooters or medical apparatus.
Many motorhomes can accommodate an additional leisure battery that can enable extended stays without an electric hook-up. Alternatively, roof-mounted solar panels could give a much-needed top-up for your power needs.
If you require a lot of bespoke modification to your existing motorhome to account for your disabilities, it might be worth investing in a custom-built/fit one instead. You could also opt to hire a modified motorhome to allow you to adapt to changing requirements.
Motorhome insurance isn’t the only type of cover you’ll need when heading out. For example, if you’re a keen bird spotter you might have some expensive binoculars packed.
Call Motorhome Protect to make sure your belongings are covered by your motorhome insurance too.
What type of adaptations could you make?
The possibilities for adaptation are endless, but they can become quite expensive and often require specialist help to ensure they’re safe and up to standard.
With the huge number of options on the market it's important to do your research to check that the product is fit for your purpose and is compatible with your motorhome.
Here are some items you may like to think about when looking for and adapting a motorhome:
- Increasing the size of the access door – motorhomes converted from panel vans are often easiest as the doors are already wider as standard enabling easy access for wheelchairs via ramps. Coach-built motorhomes with steps and higher floors are more difficult to adapt but not impossible.
- Adding a step, ramp or lift to ease access – getting in and out of the motorhome is the number one issue for those with reduced mobility and these are one of the most common modifications. There are many options available on the market.
- Creating space to enable wheelchair access throughout the interior – open-plan lounge layouts are ideal for such purposes and also provide storage space for things such as mobility scooters.
- Installing grab handles internally and externally – simple but very effective. Talk to your local dealership who may well stock these.
- Ceiling track hoists – to enable internal transfer to and from seating/bed/shower.
- Secure storage for a wheelchair or electric scooter – useful in view of how expensive these items can be to replace if they’re stolen or otherwise damaged.
- Adapting toilet and shower height and accessibility – one of the most basic requirements for a pleasurable trip.
- Changing height and accessibility to tables, worktop, seating, beds and storage areas.
- Ensuring access to light switches, control panels, roof vents and so on.
- Converting to automatic transmission, ensuring disabled driver access and any necessary control adaptations.
- Providing a secure travel position for a wheelchair and its user.
When looking for the best deal on motorhome insurance it’s always good to mention if you have specific trackers or alarms fitted to your home on wheels.
Also, make sure you have a secure place in which to store it when you’re not off on your adventures.
VAT relief for adapted motorhomes
VAT relief on motorhomes adapted for disabled campers is available. If you’re a wheelchair or stretcher user, then VAT relief is available on the basic motorhome purchase.
If, however, you’re disabled and require modifications to the motorhome because of your disability then these adaptations could be zero-rated for VAT. Further information is on the government website.
Accessible campsites in the UK
Here at Motorhome Protect, we believe that everyone should be able to enjoy the pleasure of going on holiday in a motorhome or campervan, whatever their needs. Thankfully, there is a great selection of UK campsites with disabled facilities available.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites below, offering accessible facilities, beautiful locations and a wealth of entertainment options. So, choose one and get packing!
Warren Farm Holiday Centre, Somerset
Located in the village of Brean Sands on the Somerset coast, this award-winning campsite is family run, and has earned high praise for being wheelchair friendly.
With a clubhouse, a restaurant, two takeaways and several small shops, there’s everything you need nearby.
For campers with disabilities, there is a wash and shower unit that’s not only accessible, but there’s a staff member always on hand to help. The grounds are particularly well-maintained, and level.
Woodside Country Park, Herefordshire
First-class camping can be found in this idyllic 25-acre site deep in the Herefordshire countryside.
With excellent views and a peaceful yet wild ambience, this is the perfect well-maintained spot for nature lovers who might have difficulty accessing more secluded locations.
Stowford Farm Meadows, Devon
While excellent facilities are always a bonus, they can be particularly important for the elderly and those with disabilities with their range of needs.
With that in mind the stunning and family friendly Stowford Farm Meadows in Devon could well be for you.
Spread across 500 acres of rolling meadowland and mature woodland, each camping meadow offers guests a large and well-kept utility block.
Importantly, there is also a separate family and disabled zone located near to reception.
Holme Valley Camping, West Yorkshire
Surrounded by woodland and meadows, Holme Valley Camping is a touring caravan and camping park with an amenities block which includes facilities for wheelchair users.
A lovely site with disabled facilities on the edge of the Peak District, it’s less than half an hour from Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) – a must-see attraction.
Billed as Britain’s leading outdoor gallery, YSP is set in 500 acres of rolling parkland and can be explored with a mobility scooter.
Elsewhere in West Yorkshire there’s also The Hepworth Wakefield, a fully accessible state-of-the-art building that’s home to a stunning collection of Modern British art.
Motorhome insurance with Motorhome Protect
Buying and adapting a motorhome is a fantastic and liberating experience, but not without its risks.
The team of insurance specialists at Motorhome Protect will do all they can to make insuring your new purchase as simple and straightforward as possible.
Insurance cover arranged through us can include a number of benefits including:
- Unlimited cover across all countries that are part of the EU
- Cover for camping personal effects up to £3,000
- Cover for motorhomes with a value of up to £150,000
- Unlimited mileage cover
Protect your vehicle and get a quick quote for motorhome insurance today.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.