Like most motorhomers, Carol and David Wallace love nothing more than to pack up their motorhome and travel around New Zealand, enjoying our amazing countryside. But doing so isn’t quite as easy as it is for most of us.
Carol has multiple sclerosis and has relied on a wheelchair since 2002, and with most motorhomes being pretty tight on space at the best of times, you can well imagine the sort of challenges a wheelchair might pose.
This month, Carol and David’s motorhome travels just got significantly easier with the much-anticipated arrival of their new wheelchair-friendly Avida Esperance from ALM Group.
Although the couple have owned a second-hand custom-built motorhome for three years that allowed them to travel with Carol’s wheelchair, last year, they decided it would be great to upgrade to a motorhome that provided a better range of options.
“Ideally, we were looking for a wheelchair-friendly motorhome that would also have a separate dinette, a queen-sized bed, space to access the bathroom, plenty of storage, and a second bed over the cab,” David says.
“Also important to us was the amount of bench space, a good heating system, and sufficient water and wastewater storage. We also wanted a vehicle that was quiet when travelling and that had sufficient solar power, as we need to charge Carol’s chair through an adequate inverter.”
David and Carol met with Andrew and Raewyn at ALM Group last year to talk through options. “We found out about the Avida Esperance a few years back, and knew that if we ever got the opportunity to get one, it would offer us so many great options.”
The Avida Esperance C7994 WSL
The Avida Esperance C7994 WSL has been designed to include a heavy-duty electric lift strong enough to lift a wheelchair or electric scooter in and out of the motorhome with ease. To make room for the lift, the queen-sized island Murphy bed lifts up out of the way and is tidily stored against the wall.
With the bed up, a significant amount of space is freed up to make room for Carol to move about in her wheelchair. When lowered, the bed is slightly lower to the ground than usual to make it easier to transfer from a wheelchair onto the bed. And because the Avida Esperance is a slide-out model, once extended, there is a good amount of space between the kitchen workspace and lounge area.
“There is just no substitute for the extra space this motorhome gives us, and the design means not having to compromise as much on a daily basis.”
The Esperance offers plenty of kitchen storage, a standard recessed three-burner stove and gas oven with deep drawers for cookware, and an extended stainless steel bench space. There’s also a dedicated wine rack cubby, plus a clever ‘drawbridge’ benchtop that folds down across the main door, providing extra prep space for dinner.
Other standard features include a 190-litre Dometic fridge/freezer, roof-mounted air conditioning, microwave, solar panel system with regular, television/DVD, rear stereo speakers, and roll out awning.
The large, easy-to-access bathroom has been specially designed to make life easier for those using a wheelchair with features such as a roll-in floor, sturdy grip handles, and a shower-curtain to allow for privacy.David and Carol say the process of ordering and customising the motorhome couldn’t have gone better.
“The team at ALM have been simply amazing to deal with. Nothing was too much trouble, and they give you whatever time you need on any visit. We were treated with respect and given sound advice and guidance on all the options prior to, and during construction,”
David says. “In fact, on our second visit, we completely changed our interior fabric choices and benchtops. Andrew’s knowledge about the décor was invaluable.”
In late March, David and Carol are heading down to the South Island in their new motorhome with stops in Dunedin, Nelson, and Motueka. They’re also looking forward to a trip up the west coast of the North Island from Dargaville, around the Hokianga to Ahipara and Kaitaia. “We haven’t been around the area for about 40 years,” David says.
David says motorhome travel for someone with a disability can help provide a fulfilling life and many wonderful shared experiences. “We are blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world, and Carol and I are looking forward to seeing so much more of it in the future.”
ALM sales manager Raewyn Pegden encourages anyone with a disability or special need who may be considering whether motorhoming is possible for them to get in touch.
“There are numerous options available when it comes to customising motorhomes. And we consider it a real privilege to be involved in helping make people’s travel dreams come true.”