More MS news articles for May 2001

MARVAC and RV Industry Meet the Needs of Physically Challenged

Tuesday May 29  1:26pm
Source: PR Newswire

OKEMOS, Mich., May 29 /PRNewswire/ -- With the aging of baby boomers and the ever-present needs of the physically challenged, the recreation vehicle industry has burst forward with a new wave of RVs to match the demand of people wanting to be active in society. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-fifth of all Americans suffer from some type of disability. About 15 companies are currently addressing the travel needs of those with minor disabilities.

Among the more standard modifications are wheelchair lifts or ramps, lower kitchen counters and cabinets, widened entrances to roll-in showers, lower faucet handles, roll-under sinks and conveniently located controls. In fact, RV manufacturer Sunline, headquartered in Lancaster, Pa., has created three different floor plans that are specially adapted to meet the needs of those with moderate impairments. For those with severe impairments, a niche group of servicers has sprung up to make major modifications that enable the 10 percent of Americans who have severe disabilities to have more freedom and choices of activities.

While in the military, Ruth Ann Coulombe, 40, sustained injuries that left her a low-level quadriplegic. Plus at 28, she was identified as having multiple sclerosis although she says in retrospect that she had symptoms as early as 12. When Coulombe, a single mother of a boy who was then seven, was injured, she maintained a positive attitude and set out to find a way she could stay active in her son's life and keep their life as "normal" as possible.

"It's like everything else in life, you must stay positive," she said. "You can't say 'I can't do this,' you have to think there has got to be a way." Her quest for mobility began. Since her son was, and remains, active in motor cross racing, Coulombe's first "recreation vehicle" was a minivan that she used to pull the trailer with a motorcycle mounted on it. She said she literally looked at hundreds of minivans before she found one that could have the floor lowered without interfering with the drive shaft.

But, the pair made the minivan work by "packing our portable commodes and water, removing the middle seat and sleeping on the floor," she said. Today, things are a lot easier for Coulombe. She has her second RV now, a Windsport made by Fourwinds, that shipped with a roll-in shower, a wheelchair lift and was generally accessible. However, Clock Conversions of Grand Rapids added extras to make traveling easier including a transfer seat in the cabin, hand controls and zero-effort steering.

"We do all types of camping in our RV," Coulombe said. "We do rough and fancy camping and fishing. It opens up independence. I can visit family and friends." She said she used to be unable to get into the homes. "Now we pull up and 'camp in their yard or driveway' and they come out and see us."

Bill Sheffer, Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds said, with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, all campgrounds that are formally updating and adding to their facilities, in most cases, must meet the requirements of the physically challenged outlined by the legislation. He added, some campgrounds are better suited than others because they offer wide, level and paved sites for easy movement with wheelchairs, walkers or electric scooters.

The Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging growth in the recreation vehicle and private campground industries while contributing to the quality of Michigan tourism.

For more information about RVs and camping in Michigan, visit MARVAC's web site, .

Manufacturers offering the open road to the disabled

Recreation vehicles

    Airstream, Inc.
    419 West Pike Street
    Jackson Center, OH 45334
    Custom built motor homes and travel trailers

    Foretravel, Inc.
    1221 N.W. Stallings Drive
    Nacogdoches, TX 75967
    Custom built Type A motor homes

    245 South Muddy Creek Road
    Denver, PA 17517-9773
    Travel trailers

    Teton Homes
    P.O. Box 2349
    Mills, WY 82644
    Custom built RVs

    Winnebago Industries, Inc.
    Commercial Vehicle Department
    P.O. Box 152
    Forest City, IA 50436
    Custom built RVs and modifications to existing vehicles

Conversion vans for the disabled

    A & J Vans, Inc.
    333 Washington Street
    Valder, WI 54245

    Cook & Reeves Cars, Inc.
    Superior Van Conversions
    4443 Dixie Highway
    Louisville, KY 40216

    Geneva SVS, Inc.
    1070 Carey Street
    Lake Geneva, WI 53147

    Gerstner Manufacturing, Inc.
    1950 Jimmy Daniel Road
    Bogart, GA 30622

    Kustom Car Creations
    23350 Harborview Road
    Charlotte Harbor, FL 33980

    Terra Transit
    67819 State Road 15
    New Paris, IN 46553

    Waldech Crafts, Inc.
    13821 Lake Drive
    Forest Lake, MN 55025

Vehicle accessories

    Handi-Ramp Company
    1414 Armour Blvd.
    Mundelein, IL 60060
    847-816-7525 or 800-876-7267
    Vehicle access ramps

    Mobility Works
    810 Moe Drive
    Akron, OH 44310
    Wheelchair lifts & locks, hand controls, and can raise roofs/lower floors
    on vehicles

    Team Paragon
    215 Henry Haynes Road
    Knoxville, TN 37920
    Overhead lifts and transfer systems

    The Braun Corporation
    1014 South Monticello Street
    P.O. Box 310
    Winamac, IN 46996
    Wheelchair lifts and controls

Services for the Disabled Traveler

    Handicapped Travel Club
    12555 Lantern Road
    Fishers, IN 46038

    SATH -- Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped
    347 Fifth Avenue, Suite 610
    New York, NY 10016

    Travelin' Talk
    P.O. Box 3534
    Clarksville, TN 37043-3534

Source: Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds
Contact: Carol Morrell of All Seasons Communications, 810-752-6381, or email, , for Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds