Finding Joy in the Journey: How to Make RVing Possible Despite Disabilities

Parents of kids with disabilities and medical challenges face a host of obstacles many of us would never dream of. They strive day in and day out to bring a smile to their children’s faces despite a road that can sometimes feel isolating. 

That’s why, despite the difficulties, Dawn and Chris Bailey knew RVing was worth the challenge. 

Several years ago they rented their first RV and Dawn knew they needed to find a way to fit RV travel into their lives.  Increasing medical supplies for their daughter, Taryn, made traveling by plane nearly impossible. When the pandemic began in 2020, traveling by plane really was impossible. With Taryn’s health concerns, it simply wasn’t an option. 

Rather than give up their dreams of traveling and letting Taryn experience new things, the Baileys decided to go all in. They purchased their very own RV. “Seeing the joy our daughter had driving down the road, and how much she loved to be outdoors and around the fire or going for walks through nature in her wheelchair, we realized this was more than a good way to travel, it was opening up new and joyful experiences for her as well,” said Dawn. 

Finding the Right RV 

RVing isn’t without its challenges. There is a steep learning curve for everyone, but it was even more difficult for the Baileys. Some new RV models which offer improvements in accessibility are becoming available. 

The problem is, like all new RVs, these rigs come with an outrageous price tag. Given the increased costs of having a child with disabilities, purchasing such an RV isn’t feasible for many families. 

In order to make RVing work, Dawn and Chris had to plan, plan, plan. They spent months watching videos, scouring floor plans, and more. They had to be extremely conscious of the layout, space, and storage to find something that would fit Taryn’s needs. 

When they finally found what they were looking for, another setback. With thousands of other travelers starting to RV because of the pandemic, finding their perfect rig for sale was a challenge of its own. Finally, in September 2020, they found their dream rig.

Making Modifications Along the Way 

Although the Baileys found a rig that fit many of their needs, they’ve had to make modifications. A safety harness for driving also ensures Taryn is not only happy but safe on the journey. They also upgraded the shower to make it safer for Taryn to use, and added a storage container to the back of the RV for Taryn’s wheelchair. The RV doors are too small to fit her wheelchair inside which adds another difficulty to the mix. 

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Dawn said another major challenge was RV organization. RVs are notorious for being hard to organize, but Dawn had an even bigger task on her hands. That’s because all of Taryn’s medical supplies need to be temperature controlled. Dawn said The Container Store was a lifesaver in this regard. 

Another upgrade in the Bailey’s RV is a washer-dryer. For many, an RV washer-dryer is a luxury, but for Dawn, it is a must-have to meet Taryn’s needs. 

Despite all these modifications, Dawn said they still learn something new nearly every trip. Like all RVers, they are constantly learning what works and what doesn’t. But Dawn said it is all worth it. 

The Importance of Designing With Disabilities in Mind

The Bailey’s story and others like it show how far we have to go to make things accessible for everyone. Dawn said, “I wish we could find ways to make this type of travel more affordable for families with individuals with disabilities.” 

In recent years, some RV manufactures, like Newmar, have begun offering accessible RVs. The problem is, they haven’t been around long and new RVs come with a massive price tag. For many with already high medical bills, RVing simply isn’t possible. 

Universal design is the idea of designing spaces to be accessible to all people. For example, if an RV has a ramp, I can easily walk up it. Someone with a wheelchair can use the ramp too. But if the RV has only stairs, anyone who can’t walk is immediately excluded from use. 

The Bailey’s show why accessibility is so important. Dawn said, “RVing opens the world up to explore in a more safe, self-sufficient, and enjoyable way.” That isn’t something that should be exclusive to those without disabilities. 

Let’s hope in the coming years, RV manufacturers embrace universal design so we don’t price out people with disabilities from this fantastic lifestyle. In the meantime, Dawn, Chris, and Taryn show that no obstacle is too big to overcome. The only thing they wish they would have done differently? Started sooner! 

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Kathryn Mancewicz

Kathryn Mancewicz is an RV expert who has been a full time RVer since 2019. She has bylines for her RV related content on major publications including MSN, MSN Canada, and AOL. She has also been featured on Yahoo and quoted on KOA. Kathryn is also a regular RV content writer for Cheapism.