Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Can I camp in an ADA site?

One of our readers wrote in about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) camping sites.

Dana M. writes: “Are ADA-accessible RV camp spots to be treated the same as handicap parking spots, with penalties for unauthorized use? Or are they available for use by non-ADA persons the same as restrooms and toilet stalls when unoccupied and available? We recently visited a national park that had numerous accessible sites that I’m pretty sure were occupied by non-ADA campers.”

To answer Dana’s question: It depends.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 to give people with disabilities the opportunity to access places that were formerly inaccessible and denied to them. It broadens the 1964 Civil Rights Act to be specific about those with disabilities and providing access. ADA sites may have concrete pads, easy access to ADA-compliant restrooms, adjacent to parking, fire pits that are reachable and manageable slopes. For in-depth information on trails, campgrounds, beaches and viewing areas available for government requirements for ADA, click here.

Policies for camping in an ADA site vary

A lot of other Federal and State policies are that ADA sites can be rented if no other sites are available. One federal campground reservation site reads: “If no one in your party has needs for an accessible site, you may not reserve this site unless this is the only site available at the time of your request.”

South Dakota state parks rules are similar: “Campers can make reservations for accessible campsites online or through the call center by providing their ADA/Handicap Placard ID. Campers without accessible permits can only reserve accessible sites once all other campsites in the campground have been reserved. They will be asked to move should another site become available.”

The regional park I host at has a policy that the ADA sites can be rented any time.

Book ADA? You may need to move

The risk is that if someone has a need for an ADA site they may ask you to move. The move may be to a similar site if it becomes available. Someone with an ADA need may have even booked a non-accessible site because that was the only one available at the time. The campers in the ADA site may be asked to swap.

Strict policy

A few years ago my husband needed electricity for a medical device and the state park we were going to had one electric site. It was an ADA site. I called ahead and found out the rules and the requirements before we started heading there. He was eligible, but needed to show his medical prescription and doctor’s orders before we could have the site in lieu of the ADA placard.

Check ahead of time

Always the best option is to check with the park or rangers ahead of booking so you know their particular rules and policy.

More ADA information

For more information on ADA sites check out ADA Central. For actual compliance information check out ADA.gov.


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


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Neal Davis
2 months ago

Thank you, Nanci! You have addressed a question that has passed through my mind a few times. Typically those times were when no sites seemed available at a campground. However, I’m pretty sure that one or more sites were available, but were too small for our 43′ DP. I’m hoping that downsizing to a 36′ DP a year ago will preclude our rig fitting into one of the available sites when he try to make a reservation at a campground. 🙂

Bob H
2 months ago

I have an access card provided by NPS. Due to COPD and asthma. Most generally it is well controlled. So I take any available site and leave the ADA sites for those more in need. I was at a park once and the ranger saw my card and moved me to an ADA site even though I stated I did not need it and it was unnecessary. I have to admit it was a nice site but I felt guilty the entire time feeling what if someone needing the site comes along.

Michael Converse
2 months ago

My late wife had a handicap placard and we used it often at Illinois state parks. We didn’t always use them but they came in handy when she needed them most. Leaving the handicap sites open are not going to hurt anything.

2 months ago

If you have need of a handicap ♿️ accessible site, book it or take it. If not, don’t. It will remain, or should remain, an honor system for good reason when it comes to RVing so act honorably. It’s simple.

Parking space at VONS…, use a placard or park elsewhere but RVing, just like hotel rooms, is based on needs and needing CPAP machine power does not qualify in an honorable world because you have options for alternate power or alternate machines. An amputee can’t choose an alternative power source but he/she probably whines less about it.

Carol S.
2 months ago

I camp with my adult daughter who requires a wheelchair. The ADA sites are a blessing because her chair generally cannot get around a regular site. The small front castors of wheel chairs sink in the dirt and sand, and even grass. Without these sites, she’d never be able to go camping. It’s frustrating when the ADA sites are filled with people who don’t need them.

2 months ago

What about campgrounds where the whole campground loop is ‘accessible’?
I’m thinking of Ten-X Campground in Arizona near the Grand Canyon. We have not stayed at this campground but on the recreation.gov website, it lists almost all the sites as accessible. Is this just saying the sites could be useable by persons with disabilities or does it mean people without disabilities can not use them?

2 months ago
Reply to  Gord

We use a campground in Colorado that is like that, it seems both it and Ten-X had sites upgraded during renovations over the past couple of decades. From what I’ve seen in the campground we use, the sites are accessible but not handicapped only.
Unlike some HC sites that have concrete pads or other upgrades, the CO CG (it’s been 10 years or so since I was in 10-X) has level, graveled driveways. The area where the table, fire ring, tent pad are is also graveled and leveled, but there are parking bumpers between the drive and it, with a space to walk beside them.

Vince S
2 months ago

Even if it’s the last site, you’re scum if you take it and don’t need it (placard or not).

Those sites are for those that need the special provisions to camp. They are not there for those too cheap to buy CPAP travel batteries, too stupid to reserve in advance or too lazy to walk to the vault toilet.

Adding inconvenience to those already dealt a bad hand to reduce one’s own pithy inconveniences is abhorrent.

It’s almost dark and Joe Camper takes “the last spot”. Seriously, do you think the rightful camper would knock on doors asking for proof and placard on the few ADA accessible that are occupied? No, they’d just drive on like Joe Camper should have.

This ain’t hard folks

2 months ago
Reply to  Vince S


Gary W.
2 months ago
Reply to  Vince S

Wow, what a ridiculous take.

Vince S
2 months ago
Reply to  Gary W.

Nice swipe but do tell, what part is ridiculous?

The part that says handicapped campers won’t bang on doors to see if the person occupying the ADA site actually needs it, the part saying if you don’t need it, don’t take it or the part that only scum rationalize insignificant inconveniences as needs above the real needs of others?

Please, further your thoughts Gary, you have my interest.

Bill Braniff
2 months ago

Interesting article for sure. I have a question. I am eligible under the ADA act for a designated site if available. Now here in Maine, most State Parks do not have electricity. I require electric for my CPAP and oxygen machine. The park rules say no generators during quiet hours which run all night long.
The question is , can I under the ADA run my generator for the use of my CPAP and oxygen during quiet hours?

2 months ago
Reply to  Bill Braniff

I realize you have a need, but depending on how loud your generator is, is it OK to keep everyone else awake?

Bob M
2 months ago
Reply to  Conni

Honda has a small quiet generator that should be quiet enough to run at night. Without anyone knowing.

2 months ago
Reply to  Bill Braniff

what about a good Lithium battery “solar generator” for the CPAP?

Roger B
2 months ago

If a site is allocated for the handicapped, and you’re not handicapped, don’t book it. Simple question of right and wrong. I understand using one for a night if the ranger specifically authorizes it as the last available empty site upon arrival, but otherwise, no way.

Gary W.
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger B

No one suggested otherwise.

2 months ago

Most Arizona state parks have a few sites for ADA access, which are basically just paved picnic area with sidewalk to the RV pad. Recently, we booked the last available site at one campground and realized it was ADA. When I checked with the park before arrival, they said there was no restriction, particularly since it was the one site available when we booked.
I believe they are working to make more of the sites ADA compliant.

2 months ago

Please don’t use the ADA (wheelchair accessible) sites unless you NEED them. There are not enough, and many people, like myself, travel with RVs and vans with wheelchair lifts, requiring the extra width to deploy. For many, the proximity to the restrooms is a key factor as well.

Just because your state issued you an ADA placard, doesn’t mean you SHOULD always use it. There are many people who need the extra space provided to deploy wheelchair lifts and ramps…and your doctor probably suggests you get a little more exercise anyway.

in most California State Parks, if you reserve an ADA site, the person with the placard must show their valid ID or will forfeit the site.

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