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Old 04-27-2007, 09:19 PM   #1
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1973 31' Excella 500
1972 29' Ambassador
2005 39' Land Yacht 390 XL 396
Pueblo , Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2
Renovating an Airstream for the disabled

Hello All,
My signicant other has multiple sclerosis (MS) and after years of
trailering with a 1972 Ambassador and camping with a little vintage
canned ham it has became apparent to us that the floor plan of any
trailer we have seen is not really "disabled friendly". We need
aisles and a bathroom to accomodate a wheelchair, lower appliances
etc. Instead of gutting the Ambassador we purchased an already
gutted 1973 Excella 500, last licensed in 1981. The body is in
remarkable shape, but I wouldnt be surprised if the interior was used
as a drug lab; grafitti everywhere! The good news is that all of the
wiring and holding tanks are in place. Now the big question. Has
anyone reinvented an Airstream interior to accomodate a wheelchair
and a disabled person? I have seen some beautiful pictures of
remodeled units and such, and hope to incorporate some of the ideas
into our project. I am just a few years from retirement when we can
full time, at least for awhile, and would like to coordinate the
renovation with that great event. In otherwords we are in no great
hurry. I am of the "measure twice and cut once" school so I don't
want to dive into this head first and then find out that something
else would have worked better. I have saved all of the emails on
flooring options, tankless hot water heaters and all other great
postings of advice over the last couple of years, so I feel like I am
ahead of the game a little. As soon as I rebuild the 144cid. engine
in my 1962 Ford Falcon 2 speed automatic I will have my tow vehicle
finished (just joking about that part). Any advice? We could never
afford to have the entire remodel done professionally, so I, with
friends, will do what we can before we let a professional finish it.
Anxiously awaiting your replies either on list or off list.
Dwight Hunter
1973 Excella 500 (with no interior)
1972 Ambassador Land Yacht
1960 Friendship Vacationaire Canned Ham

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Old 04-27-2007, 10:04 PM   #2
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2000 25' Excella
Kingston , Tennessee
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Posts: 904
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Hi DL and welcome to the forums. Im sure out of all the people on here, someone will be willing and able to help you out. I was thinking that there is another memeber on here in a wheelchair. Have you tried maybe typing wheelchair or handicap in the search engine up top? You never know. Good luck.

John & Tammy Adams
Silver Threads Custom RV Curtains
2000 Airstream Excella | AIR 15902
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Old 04-27-2007, 10:42 PM   #3
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1973 31' Sovereign
Bertram , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 277
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No problem with the Falcon, just downhill only
Good thing is your starting with a clean slate. Is it completely gutted or is there still some of the bath? How much isle way do you need? Plenty of idea will follow with this crew. I'll see if I can get something in autocad. Have ya considered a dedicated chair for inside the trailer? Advantage would be possibly using a rail guide to make getting around inside a bit easier. That said, that would mean more transering between chairs, but if that is not an issue the advantage inside might be good.
Hey, a few years back I speant a lot of time with my dad during stroke rehab and ran into a lot of folks working around obsticals. Give us an idea of what you have in mind for a layout and see who can do the most damage

Welcome to the forums.

Rob n Terry
"There’s not much in life we can’t over-analyze”
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Old 04-27-2007, 10:43 PM   #4
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hi dwight...

there are a few members/mates here with limited mobility, using canes, walkers or wheel chairs...

the big issue seems to be getting up/down the stairs and in/out the door...

ramps, platforms and exterior folding grab handles help for this.

there are many websites on home design for specific limitations, so check some of those.

Accessible Design/Universal Design Resources

starting with an empty unit means greater flexibility in layouts....

a dinette without seating so a wheel chair can be rolled under...

lowered counter tops or 'split level' counters...

lower light and fan/vent and hvac switches or handheld remotes, like now available for fantastic fans...

toilet mounted without walls on 3 sides, using curtains or accordian dividers for privacy.

wheel chair friendly shower pan and hand held sprayers...

twin beds and no sofa also would be useful...

the primary limitation is mounting grab rails or support arms...

these would need to extend up from the floor, or attached to ribbing/backer plates...

since NONE of the typical a/s divider walls are really structural...

and the typical a/s or rv fiberglass shower walls would not support grab rails either...

lastly the ideal tv in this situation may be a 3/4 or 1 ton full size van...

vans are very wheel chair and lift friendly...

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Old 04-27-2007, 11:39 PM   #5
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1992 34' Limited
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Do I recall correctly....?

Dwight etal -

I seem to remember that there was a contributor a while back (9 to 18 months ago?) that was wrestling with the idea of wheelchair access - with a ramp/ lift as I recall.... No time to find the link, but someone out there has the answer.

Not sure of the end result, if any, but there was lively discussion, that I followed quite avidly as I have several chair-bound frineds.... and well, any interested visitor to an AirStream is a potential convert...!

All the best to you and yours Dwight!!! Any help that I can offer, be sure to let me know! I'll do what I can to advance the cause...!

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Old 04-28-2007, 06:47 AM   #6
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1993 21' Sovereign
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I was about to reply to this thread, then realized I am one of the wheelchair/walker crowd. I have learned the real limiting factor is the main entry door. It is framed by ribs on either side of it, and can't be widened without major structural surgery. You can use a small wheeled chair to get your significant other inside, but it will require you pushing them up a ramp. An aluminum ramp can be constructed and carried in the tow vehicle for this.
A twin bed on one side of the coach, attached with hinges to the outer wall at the ribs, with cables to keep it level when down, and latches to keep it up out of the way when not in use, will give you much more room to move around inside.
Lowered counters and appliances are fairly easy to construct using standard RV stuff, and the toilet can be raised to handicap height (ours is high enough my feet barely touch the floor). An RV shower can be fitted with a PVC shower chair, it can be removed so non-chair users can access the shower.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 04-28-2007, 08:00 AM   #7
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2006 25' Safari FB SE
St. Cloud , Minnesota
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Originally Posted by SilverToy
I seem to remember that there was a contributor a while back (9 to 18 months ago?) that was wrestling with the idea of wheelchair access - with a ramp/ lift as I recall.... No time to find the link, but someone out there has the answer.
It might have been nevisstudio. One of his pics rotated thru the portal page photo sampler and I looked at them a few days back -- only one shows his wheelchair ramp. This question comes up periodically. Issues seem to be wide enough aisles and bathroom access. The sky is the limit with a custom re-do, but so are the prices.

There are quite a number of threads that come up if you search on wheelchair.


5 meter Langford Nahanni

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