Building a wheelchair-accessible camper van isn’t easy. There are many things one must consider to ensure a camper van can fit a wheelchair and remain functional. Lisa Franks, a Canadian paralympic athlete, built her camper in two phases, living in it without any cabinets before deciding on the van’s final layout.
The camper van comes packed with the essentials that feature a few tweaks for accessibility. The kitchen has a slide-out two-burner induction stovetop that allows Franks to slide her wheelchair underneath the cooktop. The sink also features a cutout underneath so she can easily access the sink. Next to the sink is a slide-out butcher block that also serves as a table.
Franks designed the entire camper around her mountain bike that’s stored underneath the queen-sized bed at the back of the van, which has to sit relatively high to accommodate the bike. This makes getting into the bed difficult, but Franks fitted the bench, which hides the porta-potty, with a motor that raises and lowers it like a standing desk, allowing her to reach the bed.
The Ford Transit camper van, which Franks selected for its all-wheel drive, comes equipped with a Superarm Lift System for her wheelchair. It features a compact design that doesn’t require a large platform that eats up a lot of space and keeps the doorway free of obstructions. It’s also easier to repair than a platform lift.
Franks has a bike rack at the back, though it holds the wheelchair she needs to play basketball instead of another bike. The cargo doors open to reveal the camper’s garage, which is also home to the outdoor shower. The rear cargo area houses a 32-gallon water tank and the vehicle’s electronics.
Franks is relatively new to the camper-van lifestyle, setting out in her modified Honda Element for several months in 2020 before placing an order for her Ford that arrived in 2021. Franks has run into challenges in her switch to a nomadic lifestyle but believes it’s all been worth it.