Friday, February 3, 2023


Wheelchair-bound family finds joy in RVing

By Nanci Dixon
I met fellow RVers Mark Swanson and his son, Shane, at the campground earlier this week. Both Dad and Shane are wheelchair-bound, but that is not stopping them from being avid RVers. Shane was born with spina bifida and has no use of his legs. Mark grew up camping and wanted to share that with his son. Their family has been camping together since Shane was a baby. They started in a tent and then moved to an ice house trailer. The ice house worked well because it could be lowered directly to the ground, so it allowed easier access for Shane’s wheelchair.

Shane is a paraplegic swimmer and by age twelve had broken five national records. In addition to being a champion swimmer, Shane plays a mean game of sled hockey. He is now 19 and continues to compete across the state and nation. He recently added another seven gold medals in the Junior Nationals. Getting to that level has been a journey. Shane was once hospitalized for 65 days, has had too many surgeries to even count, and continues to work through health problems that would stop most people.

National gold medals
Photo Credit Jason Olson

When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, all meets and events were called off. Mark and Shane found themselves stuck inside with nothing to do. Shane was bored, Mark was bored, and they both were getting a bit depressed. The campgrounds were still closed so even their normal camping season was out of whack.

Newmar wheelchair accesible RV

Then Mark found a handicap accessible 40 ft. Newmar motorhome online. It has a handicap lift and the interior is designed to be wheelchair accessible. It has wide aisles, the cabinets are lower, has hand controls and a handicap accessible bathroom. It was perfect. What does Shane like most? “The lift, absolutely.”

Wheelchair lift

They bought the motorhome in June and have already been camping for almost two months. I asked Shane what he likes best about camping and he said “Everything!” They camp close to home so that Wendy, Mark’s wife and Shane’s mother, can join them when she isn’t working. Their dream is to be able to full-time someday.

Handlebar bike

When not sitting around the campfire, Mark and Shane can be seen biking around the campground on their handcycles (above), stopping to talk and making friends with everyone. Shane is a true champion, in the pool and out.

If you or someone you know is an RVer with a disability, please join, or have them join, our Facebook group, RVing with a disability.


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Dave H
11 months ago

Please check out the Iowa State Swimming finals from 2/11-2/12-2022. Should be available on U-Tube. I had never seen anything like it.. A freshman in high school with this same condition swam in the finals. It was amazing to watch how he could accomplish the two events he swam in. It shows what can really happen when someone makes the decision to try and then succeeds.

RV Staff
11 months ago
Reply to  Dave H

Thanks, Dave. Here’s Isaiah Picard’s inspirational story (not the swimming finals but his background story): Have a good night. 😀 –Diane

11 months ago

Nice profile of this family. As a paraplegic who has been very active in the disability rights movement for four decades I want to urge you and to not use words like “wheelchair bound” and “handicap” in the future. Neither of these two men are “bound” to their wheelchairs. The wheelchairs and hand cycle are mobility devices that offer them mobility and freedom. Additionally, the term handicap is outdated and demeaning to many people, even though it is still used a lot. Better terms use “people first” language, such as “a young man or person with a disability”.

Semantics are very important as we all know and our language is evolving. We don’t use the term “handicap parking “ any longer. The appropriate term is “accessible parking”. The term “handicap” has very negative roots and really describes the problems people with disabilities face, rather than the person themselves.

I appreciate your stories hopefully your understanding of this very important issue.

Nanci Dixon
11 months ago
Reply to  Tony

Tony, thank you so much for your comments. I always aim to be respectful and inclusive and I am glad you have brought forward the importance of language when writing about people with disabilities. My son has life long disabilities and I of course have no intention of demeaning him or anyone else. Again, thank you.

2 years ago

Can anyone tell me the brand of this hand cycle? I am looking for one for a family member.

2 years ago
Reply to  anne

It looks like a Top End brand.

Available on Amazon also.

2 years ago

Great to hear about camping adventures and how this family has a can do attitude! I wonder if you meant to say Shane plays “sledge” hockey. It is a demanding and competitive game, awesome Shane!

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