Tuscon, Ariz., manufacturer Kick’in Kampers Inc. is now converting travel trailers, fifth-wheels, vans and motorhomes to make them accessible to the disabled, according to a report in the Arizona Daily Star.
Roll-in tile showers, chair-lift systems, widened entry doors and altered counter heights are just a few of the modifications that owner Lorenzo Caracciolo and his employees offer to customers.
“We build them from the ground up, so we can pretty much take anything and modify it,” Caracciolo said.
Caracciolo and his father, who has been in the RV business for nearly 40 years, previously owned an RV dealership until four years ago when they began designing and building their custom line of truck “kampers” and travel trailers.
They found that their willingness to modify existing RVs appealed to customers with specific customization needs, such as wheelchair- or walking-aid users.
Kick’in Kampers recently modified a fifth-wheel for a paraplegic man from New Mexico. The back of his coach originally had bunk beds and a corner bathroom, but after the conversion the area became a wheelchair-accessible bathroom covered in ceramic tile that both he and his wife could use.
Currently, Kick’in Kampers is working on an existing motorhome in which it put a hospital bed and medical equipment where a bedroom had been before. It also added a bed that drops from the ceiling and hovers above the hospital bed for the customer’s wife.
Kick’in Kampers designs and builds a line of truck campers called Trail Dust and two lines of truck trailers. Its Bamboo Ultra-Lite Trailers range from 14- to 21-feet and its Toucan Trailers from 23- to 30-feet.
It’s not just customers looking for a handicapped-accessible vehicle who come to Kick’in Kampers. Some, like Tom and Pam Sanor, are looking for a custom-built camper for other reasons.
The Sanors, originally from Ohio, have been traveling and volunteering around the country for nine years while living out of their fifth-wheel.
In hopes of spending a summer in Alaska and completing their goal of driving to all the states, except Hawaii, the Sanors purchased a smaller truck trailer from Kick’in Kampers’ Trail Dust line. They cited the quality of customer service and the amount of customization offered.
“They work with you,” Pam Sanor said. “They do it your way.”
Tom Sanor said one of his favorite elements of his new RV is the extendable bathroom that Kick’in Kampers has patented. When the camper is parked, the bathroom can slide out, making a spacious and separate shower and toilet area.
The cost for modifications depends on the customer’s requests. Caracciolo says prices start around $5,000 for smaller alterations and a complete remodel would be more expensive. Kick’in Kampers offers yearly checkups for RV owners
Although he may never walk again, Chris Loscerbo finds freedom on the open road.
The Ladysmith Chronicle, British Columbia, reported that Loscerbo is classified high quadriplegic, and is paralyzed from the neck down due to a diving accident in his hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. But thanks to a wheelchair accessible RV, he is no longer limited by the distance his power wheel chair can take him.
An avid businessman, Loscerbo now operates BC Wheelchair Friendly Services Inc., a small RV rental company with two wheelchair-accessible rigs.
“I thought it would be good to give other people in my situation the opportunity to go camping,” he said. “Seeing the smiles that come back from people who rent it is what motivates me.”
Loscerbo purchased his first wheelchair-accessible RV shortly after moving to Chemainus from Winnipeg with his mother and sister in February 1997.
“I had just spent 45 days locked in my house because we had had a couple of blizzards and we couldn’t even get out of our house because all the doors opened out,” he said. “The only way we got out of the house through the garage door which, fortunately, went up and down.”
Loscerbo enjoyed the freedom of the RV so much that he decided to start renting it out to other people. When business started booming, he bought a second RV.
“We went everywhere, we traveled the whole island, and that was great just being out there with a bonfire and the kids around,” Loscerbo said.
A wheelchair-accessible RV is similar to a regular RV except a few modifications to make it able to accommodate a full-sized wheelchair.
“It’s got a ricon lift, which is a wheelchair-accessible lift, and a wide 40-inch door, and inside it’s all set up with lots of room so you can turn around in it,” Loscerbo said.
The larger of the two rigs has a second lift that will take a user from their wheelchair to the bed, toilet and shower.
Wheelchair-accessible RVs do not require a special license and have built-in hand controls to enable a handicapped individual to drive the vehicle.
“Anybody that drives a car can drive an RV,” Loscerbo said.
RVs are also the perfect solution for those who want an alternative to flying, Loscerbo said.
“It’s really difficult to travel by air for anybody in a wheelchair, especially a high quad because our wheelchairs are so high tech, and when they start to bang them around in the bottom of the airplanes, invariably something will get damaged and you’ll be at the other end and your wheelchair doesn’t work,” he said. “Plus, they lift you like you’re a slab of meat to put you into a normal chair, it’s so humiliating.
“With the RV, I figure it takes a little longer, but you can at least see the country, and you can go camping every night, it’s great.”
Loscerbo dreams of one day having an RV available in every province and says there is a need.
“I get calls from the East Coast, from Florida, and it’s just not possible to deliver the vehicles to them,” he said. “I’d like to get in bed with an RV company that knows about rental business.”