Accessible campgrounds and parks may be hard to come by right now, but there's a push to make sure anyone with a disability has the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors
Less than 10% of campgrounds in the United States are accessible for wheelchair users, according to Mark Douglass, founder and CEO of the RVing Accessibility Group, which raises awareness for inclusive recreational accessibility and provides resources and information to people with disabilities interested in the campground industry.
Earlier this decade, Douglass, a professional accessibilty specialist, visited 700 parks and found that only 63 of them were fully compliant with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“We’re ignored when it comes to camping,” Douglass says of people with disabilities. “We’re not handicapped, the RV parks are. Most park owners have never been in a wheelchair and don’t get it. You’re never going to understand accessibility until you’ve been there. It’s like you’re trying to get from one side of a river to the other without getting stuck in the mud.”
Standards Should Be Equal
In addition to having accessible parking, bathrooms, showers and ramps, an accessible campground is one in which a wheelchair user can experience the same amenities, access routes and trails as an able-bodied person. The standard should be that everyone is able to access all areas of the park without having to use an automobile.
Bob Coomber, a recreation and park district director who was named the world’s No. 1 wheelchair hiker by the San Francisco Chronicle, has arguably been the most adamant voice behind trying to find more ways to incorporate ADA standards into campgrounds, parks and trails.
Coomber, a member of the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, serves as a motivational speaker for people with disabilities and has been featured on CBS’ Early Show and ABC’s World News. To this day, he remains steadfast in getting recreational activities such as camping accessible for every citizen.
“They [parks] have to adapt to the population,” Coomber says. “I think the state parks have to consider that a higher percentage of people are becoming disabled, yet still want to do all the things they did before they were disabled.”
Coomber acknowledges that it’s not practical for every single piece of land to be accessible, but where possible, he suggests parks create alternative routes or trails to accommodate the entire population.
“Somebody looking for a day hike in a power wheelchair shouldn’t have to move rocks and boulders or work around them or be stopped by them,” Coomber says. “These areas should be made accessible and paved.”
For more on accessible camping and accessible campsites throughout the United States, visit www.whenwerv.com