I’m kickstarting a project to expand access to the outdoors for people who use wheelchairs, and am looking for potential sponsors and collaborators for the project.
The goal of this project is to create a reproducible design for a camper conversion that’s wide enough for people who use wheelchairs to use, doesn't rely on an able-bodied companion being present, and which is designed as affordably as possible.
This design would be targeted for people who use wheelchairs but have upper body mobility - some of whom may drive, and many of whom are veterans.
Especially among veterans, there are a lot of strong, independent, adventurous people who use wheelchairs who are stuck at home or dependent on able-bodied others who would love to have access to a van build that would work for them without costing a small fortune.
Recently, several new designs have come out for folks who use wheelchairs, though only those who are accompanied by able-bodied companions. As a few examples, these models typically require an able-bodied person to pull the bed out, require an able-bodied person to operate a ramp, and require an able-bodied person to drive (no hand gear functionality). I have spoken to the companies who make these builds. They agree it is a good idea to expand to builds for people who use wheelchairs independently but none will have reasonably affordable models on the market any time in the near future.
For a visual, take a look at Kirk Williams’ van build. The goal of this project is to create a design as functional as his, just more affordable and scalable.
The key challenge will be to identify a sponsor or a team of sponsors to back the project financially. I don’t have specific numbers at this time, but the total cost of the prototype, including parts and labor, may be in the ballpark of $50,000-$75,000.
To gauge feasibility and interest in this project I am reaching out to socially conscious companies like REI with missions to increase diversity/inclusion in the outdoors and to support veterans, veteran’s groups, van conversion companies, and suppliers commonly used in van builds.
For any sponsors who come aboard and who share common goals, they would be a true partner and would be welcome to be as involved in shaping the design as they’d like. My hope is that this project would also serve as a powerful example of how its sponsors are supporting diversity/inclusion outdoors and America’s veterans.
** A personal note about this project
I identify as a queer independent nomadic artist. I am disabled, everywhere I go I am the minority, breaking boundaries of what people perceive as possible. Through my art projects I have traveled around the world working with communities in resistance. I have worked with many disabled people within these endeavors being witness to people's struggle and felt my own struggle alongside theirs. The idea for the mobile home is ultimately a deep desire to give people who have been impoverished by society, a functional home; and to give myself, someone who lives as an outsider in an ableist world, a way to survive in my own style. Therefor beyond creating a prototype for people who can afford a converted van, I'd be looking to create a sponsor program for people without money to their name to receive a sponsor and mobile home.