AS WE NAVIGATE unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a certain anxiety about travel. Like many other people, I love to travel and see new places so over the recent months of lockdown I have struggled both physically and mentally.
This is why I was so thrilled and feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity of test driving a motorhome from Marquis Leisure. Previously, I looked at many different models and at the various interior layouts available.
For the test drive I chose the Fairford model, which has the dining area behind the front seats, a galley kitchen along the side and the bed at the back. With a few adaptions, for example a few grab rails in the bathroom and a lift at the door, the motorhome was made perfect for my needs.
Whilst the world has put travel on hold, I have learnt that I have not had to move far from home to appreciate the benefits of a break. During my motorhome test drive, I have stayed fairly local, experiencing beautiful places near my home in Cumbria. During the times away I have felt my shoulders drop and my anxiety levels diminish and have been able to relax, secure in the knowledge that I have not put myself at risk by breaking any covid restrictions.
The motorhome is so versatile! The first time away I felt like a tortoise… Wherever I went I was taking my home with me. Though this may sound silly to some folk, to others the benefit of ‘home from home’ will be a welcomed asset. For some, for example a person with autism, a familiar environment, which feels secure, will go a long way in helping them experience a new adventure without raising unnecessary anxiety.
I have loved been able to park up next a river and fall asleep to the sounds of a babbling brook. To have been able to enjoy a glass of wine under a starlit sky was wonderful. The motorhome for me meant freedom.
Freedom to go places I wanted to go and not having to stick to a timetable. I was able to travel as far as I wanted to travel on a journey. I could set off when I wanted to set off and arrive when I wanted to arrive. I could pull over, park up and prepare a meal if I chose to and I could even stop and have a nap! And if I saw something en-route, I could stop and take time to embrace the moment.
Unfortunately, not all campsites are accessible for everyone. Although the Disability Discrimination Act does say that ‘reasonable adjustments’ need to be made to support people with disabilities, there isn’t legislation saying what specific facilities need to be in place. This means it is very much down to the individual site owner to interpret what constitutes a ‘reasonable adjustment’.
A designated camping/caravan/campervan plot for the disabled visitor on a site would be ideal, with extra space for ramps and lifts and located close to facilities. A shower block too with accessible toilets that have grab rails, a shower stool and an adjustable shower would be great. The shower block as seen on the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Corfe Castle site has been well thought out.
I urge any campsite owner/manager who is considering upgrading facilities to think about incorporating a ‘changing place’ facility on their site. It is a frightening fact that many adults and children with disabilities are having to lay on toilet floors whilst their carers change sanitary clothing. Really? Isn’t this a sad case for dignity and human rights? Some of the public toilets that I have been in whilst travelling around the UK – well, there is no way that I would sit on the floor.
And whilst toilet facilities are the most important thing to get right, there are also other things to consider. Gravel is a nightmare; a hardstanding surface would be amazing! Us wheelies, despite what you have heard, do also like to lend a hand with the washing up. But we have to be able to reach the sink first before we ‘muck in.’ Many of the washing stations on campsites have regular high (and deep) sinks and are made inaccessible by steps. A few adaptions to one of the sinks would be so much appreciated.
Not all disabilities are the same and the vast range of disabilities statements on campsite websites such as ‘fully accessible’ and ‘disabled friendly’ are not as helpful as one might think. What would be valuable would be a detailed access statement for each of the sites so that people can make an informed decision as to the suitability for their own needs.
Of course, the facilities available at campsites are often be dictated by the physical landscape and making it wheelchair accessible is simply not an option.
This is what makes having a campervan even sweeter for me as I know that I have an accessible toilet and shower on board and I’m not having to worry about whether there will be accessible facilities at the campsite. I’m guaranteed too of being able to have a perfect cup of tea on demand!
It’s worth noting that 12 billion pounds is spent on tourism by people with some form of disability – we are a section of the community that should not be forgotten about! We have money to spend too.
The motorhome life isn’t for everyone with a disability. Some of the UK’s 3,000 sites are accessible, but it can be hit and miss. However, given the chance to break out of one’s comfort zone with the necessary support, it offers escapism that is hard to beat.
I’ve been converted. I really love the motorhome life and can’t wait for my next adventure.
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Whilst the world has put travel on hold, I have learnt that I have not had to move far from home to appreciate the benefits of a break.