By Mark Douglass
Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Specialist
RVing Accessibility Group
Isn’t it refreshing to see park and campground owners and operators take the initiative to make life a little easier for their customers, giving them even more reason to keep coming back year after year? It is to those who deal with mobility issues yet refuse to give up the RV lifestyle, leaving the rough winters up north behind for the warmer winters in southern Arizona. And the numbers are growing with the aging baby boomers and the increasing number of wounded American servicemen and women.
RVing Accessibility Group (RVAG) was invited to speak at the Arizona ARVC annual conference in April of this year on ADA compliance and teach park owners how to become more user friendly to the disabled and aging population. The response was very refreshing and the attitudes toward accessibility were quite compelling.
Accessibility specialists with RVAG followed up on numerous assessment requests in the Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma areas. RVAG honored their commitment to come and do the assessments during their slow time, which was August with temperatures ranging from 105 F to 115 F. As brutal as the heat may have been, the work was done and completed in a timeframe acceptable to the AZARVC participants.
With 115 F heat, now I see why southern Arizona is not a summer destination but very well suited as a winter destination. In fact, I plan to return to the area, but not in the heat of the summer.
When the AZARVC participants were asked what it was that led them to look into ADA compliance and accessibility improvements, the overwhelming response was not because it was the law but that because it is the right thing to do. Over and over, during each assessment, owners and owner representatives kept reiterating it was “the right thing to do.” They recognize the benefit they can bring to their customer base and how making life a little easier for their customers will not only keep them coming back year after year, but they will hopefully tell others at rallies and gatherings.
Those who participated in the AZARVC group assessment program will have a plan of action on what areas can be improved as well as what areas can be brought up to ADA compliance. In many cases, compliance in some areas can be achieved for little or no out of pocket money. Marketing can be a major driver for customer retention as well as for new business and being able to market accessible improvements will drive more traffic to their business.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in state and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.
For those interested in learning more about settlements by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, visit http://www.ada.gov/enforce_current.htm.
RVing Accessibility Group is a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit providing technical assistance relative to ADA compliance for the outdoor hospitality industry. The team consists of adaptive RVers who have both the experience and professional training to teach business owners how to work toward ADA compliance and use tax incentives to help with the process. Tax deductible donations may be made online at www.rvingaccessibility.org under the DONATE tab.
If you own or operate an RV park or campground and would like to know more about how RVAG can assist in developing a multi-year accessibility transition plan, please email RVAG at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact them through the website noted above. RVAG will be presenting at the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) annual conference in Las Vegas, NV in December.
The group will also have a booth at ARVC as well as the RVDA International Convention to help dealers better understand how to serve an underserved market.