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Accessible Campgrounds are a Passion for RVing Accessibility Group

Accessible Campgrounds are a Passion for RVing Accessibility Group

Mark Douglass is passionate about what he does and with good reason.  Born with birth defects in his feet, he grew up in and out of wheelchairs all his life.  As an adult, he faced more mobility challenges following a major car accident and when he went RVing for the first time in 1997 he was in a wheelchair – scooting up and down the steps but still doing the driving.  In 2009, he underwent surgery and began moving again.

In the meantime, he and his wife Ellie were managing a campground – he working from an electric wheelchair.  They bought a motorhome and decided to do some traveling.  That’s when Mark began to encounter some major barriers.  “When I would call a campground and request “handicapped” parking, we would be placed near the bathroom,” he says.  “I couldn’t access the amenities in the park.  It was difficult for my wife to push me in my wheelchair through gravel.  We just made a list of the parks which could accommodate me and where we could go back.  I didn’t know if I would ever walk again, but I really enjoyed the RV lifestyle.”

In 2010, when he was finally able to walk again, Mark decided he wanted to give back after being given back his legs.  He founded RVing Accessibility Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a website initially listing parks he had found which were accessible to people with mobility challenges.  At the same time, he decided he needed to better educate himself on accessibility issues and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

At the University of Indiana’s National Center on Accessibility, Mark underwent intense training and participated in field applications, learning about disability access routes, toilet and seating standards, and other ADA  prerequisites.  He continued classes on the ADA requirements led by both government entities and private teachers.  “This wasn’t going to be a hobby,” he says.

Mark has no desire to become the “ADA police”, he says.  Instead he wants to help RV campground owners develop their properties so they do meet ADA standards and at the same time offer enjoyable recreational opportunities to the disabled market.  Initially, he began speaking at various campground owner association’s meetings and offering his services – conducting an accessibility assessment and preparing a 5-year plan for parks to be in compliance with ADA standards.  On site, he walks through the property with the park owner, explaining the areas he’ll be evaluating.  “Most campground owners have no idea if they are ADA compliant and neither do most local government agency inspectors, because they haven’t been trained in ADA regulations.  For example, a bathroom needs to meet 30 different standards.  I evaluate every element in the park which has an ADA requirement – access routes, doors, playgrounds – all get measured and photographed.  And I know the owner is thinking about costs,” he adds.

Mark then puts together a detailed 5-year transition plan for the park, so that each year they can budget for certain improvements.  If the plans can’t be completed in the 5-year period, he helps extend the plan another 5 years.  “The Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing ADA standards, but they are usually not aware of any problems until a customer files a complaint,” he says.  “Even if you’re not totally ADA compliant, in the event of an ADA law suit, you have a much stronger case if you have a transition plan in place.”

RVing Accessibility Group does not report its findings to the Department of Justice, the ADA or any other government agency.  “We are an advocate for the campground industry,” says Mark.  “Our assessments are basically a road map toward ADA compliance.  They are confidential and we don’t release the names of the parks we work with unless they want us to in order to promote their park.”  Parks pay the organization for the accessibility study; it also subsists on individual donations and sponsorships.

Bill Small, owner of Small Country Campground in Louisa, Virginia contracted with RVing Accessibility Group for an assessment in 2013 after hearing Mark speak at a Virginia campground owners’ meeting.  “I decided I didn’t want to get caught up by government regulations and invited him to come over and look at our park,” he says.  “We were in the process of designing and building a mini golf course at the time, and we incorporated Mark’s assessment study’s suggestions.  The 18-hole mini golf course is 100% accessible.”  Bill went on to add accessibility ramps to his store and game room, as well as the pool, creating a whole new entrance with a ramp, accessible gate handles and an accessible pool chair lift as required for compliance with the ADA standards for accessibility.

According to Mark, 20% of Americans, or 57.6 million people have a disability of some kind.  60% of these people use wheelchairs.  The disabled market has a discretionary income of more than $200 billion.  And in 1999, a study by a collaborative group of both private organizations and public agencies determined that among our country’s disabled population, the # 1 recreational activity is camping.   “Making campgrounds more accessible and marketing to this population segment is a new revenue stream,” says Mark.  “The population is aging.  One out of four baby boomers is projected to have at least one disability.  If we make it easier for these customers to enjoy their campground stays, it’s better for the industry.”

Attempt to curb ADA lawsuits angers disabled people

Concerns raised that bill would hinder accessibility

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 10:24pm

DENVER – Concerns are being raised over proposed legislation in Congress that attempts to curb lawsuits tied to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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The bill comes after reports of lawsuits filed against businesses for what owners say are minor, easily correctable ADA violations.

But the disabled community fears that the measure would create unnecessary hurdles to removing barriers, while minimizing significant access issues.

“This law has been around for 26 years. If we give everyone a grace period to fix problems, this tells businesses they should not have to comply, which puts the burden on the disabled person to go out, not be able to access what we need, then find the true owner and notify them. Why should we have to do this 26 years later?” asked Julie Reiskin, executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

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Serial Suit Filer Challenged by Old Town Hotel

BY MANDY MILES Citizen Staff

“He gets about $4,500 in attorney’s fees for each case he settles,” Norkunas said, doing some quick math. “So he files 1,400 suits in Florida, times $4,500 per case, and he’s looking at more than $6 million.”


Justice Department Reaches Agreement with San Juan County, New Mexico, to Improve Accessibility

The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with San Juan County, New Mexico, to improve access to all aspects of civic life for persons with disabilities.  The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the department’s wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Contributor:   Mark Douglass, Accessibility Specialist, RVing Accessibility Group

With an estimated 16% of RVers on the road experiencing mobility impairments, be it disability or simply aging issues, how well are you prepared to accommodate this growing segment of the camping community? This statistic does not include our wounded servicemen and women whose lives have been changed forever with the loss of limbs or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and now require the use of a mobility device to get around. And there is also an 80% chance that every American will experience at least 1 disability in their lifetime.

To learn more about transition planning to grow your business, go to the link below.

Transition Planning for ADA Compliance

RVShare teams up with group to provide RVs for physically-challenged

Legal News Reporter

Published: March 26, 2015

The ability to take an excursion to one of America’s many campgrounds in an RV is something many people take for granted. But for the physically challenged, there are serious obstacles to embarking upon such a trip starting with the fact that there are few RVs for rent that can meet the needs of this group.

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Justice Department Resolves Lawsuit Against Sairam Enterprises Inc. For Discriminating Against Disabled Veteran With Service Animal

Justice Department Resolves Lawsuit Against Sairam Enterprises Inc. For Discriminating Against Disabled Veteran With Service Animal

The Department of Justice reached an agreement today to resolve a lawsuit it brought against Sairam Enterprises Inc. LLC, which owns a hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The proposed consent decree, which must be approved by the court, resolves a 2014 lawsuit that the department filed against Sairam Enterprises over allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it denied a room at a Days Inn to a person with a service animal and his family.

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DOJ Settles with National Museum of Crime and Punishment

This month the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a settlement agreement with the National Museum of Crime and Punishment (NMCP).  Upon investigating the complaint under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, DOJ found …..

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Strides are finally being made with the iconic ISA (international symbol for accessibility).  There is a strong movement to increase awareness for the disability community via proactive projects, incognito site visits, and media stories to bring this element to the forefront.

Click on the following link to see this incredible video:


Arizona ARVC Members Increase Accessibility Awareness

Arizona RV Parks Being Proactive With Accessibility

By Mark Douglass                                                                                                                                                                                                             October 29, 2014
Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Specialist
RVing Accessibility Group


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.

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