Accessible Iris: a campervan for disabled children

by Accessible Iris in Bristol, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 3rd August 2021 we successfully raised £33,610 with 485 supporters in 28 days

We are creating an accessible campervan so that families with a disabled child can enjoy campervan holidays too.

by Accessible Iris in Bristol, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

Thank you so much for all the donations that are still keep coming in. We're so appreciative of your generosity. In the last few days of the campaign we are going to use donations to pay off a chunk of the loan we took out to buy Iris. 


1627658406_one_week_to_go_(2).jpg










Ending 3rd August at 7.30am!

(Yes, it does say 10th August at the end of video. A member of the team, who shall remain anonymous, can't count 4 weeks, oops!)...

About our project


We all want to go on holidays that suit us – but for some people, options can be severely limited by accessibility issues.

Many families with a disabled child would love to go on camping holidays but are not able to. There are lots of reasons for this, perhaps because of the equipment that they may need, or because they require electricity, or a particular bed, or maybe because their child will find the sensory and routine changes too difficult to manage.

In fact, for many families any overnight trips can be difficult or impossible. As a result the whole family misses out on visiting friends and relatives, going to festivals or attending special events such as weddings.

A holiday in a campervan could offer a solution to many of these problems, so long as it is designed with the needs of the disabled child and their family in mind.

The problem is, accessible campervans for families to rent don't exist.

Or not yet anyway...

1624564874_challenges_2.jpg

A trip away in an accessible campervan offers a family the control over their environment and their journey that they need.

1624557378_spain_luggage.jpg

Last time we visited family in Spain we took 25 kilos of medical equipment for our daughter, as well as having things sent ahead, and that's not including our own luggage.

Who are we? 

We're two people, Jemima and Cody, who loved the campervan life, but haven't been able to access it since our first child was born with a rare chromosome condition.

Before we had our children we took all our holidays in vans we’d converted ourselves. We loved the freedom of making up our route as we went, eating outside as the sky darkened and opening the door on a new view each morning.

On our last campervan holiday together we talked about the van we would convert so we could holiday with our first child, who was growing inside Jemima at the time.

But our first child was born with a serious chromosome condition and all our assumptions about holidays changed. Cali, who is now seven, cannot walk or talk. She’s tube fed, needs oxygen at night and can’t go anywhere overnight without a ton of equipment.

After Cali came Alba, who is 5 years old and who has never been camping with both her parents. We’ve had some great holidays together, but they've needed a lot of planning, and compromises. But weekends away and visits to family have been few. Whenever we are invited to special events one of us will stay home with Cali.

1623929217_four_of_us_smaller.jpg

What are we going to do?

We never gave up on our campervan dream, in fact Cody has been designing his ideal campervan in his head for many years, often asking friends with disabled children what they would need in an accessible campervan.

Then Covid hit and we were told Cali had to shield. This meant our whole family didn't leave the house, apart from for exercise, for many months, and for Cody it meant he had to stop working as a stove installer. 

Cody had been wanting to become a campervan converter for some time and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to set this into motion.

The maiden campervan had to be the one closest to our hearts, an accessible campervan for families with a disabled child.

We researched the market and spoke to lots of parents of disabled children, and it was confirmed to us that there is a great demand for an accessible campervan, but no supply.

We talked to Quirky Campers, a Bristol based company that rents out hand-built campervans. Their enthusiasm was the final push we needed.

So we made a plan, bought a van and named her Iris.

Cody has done some of the preliminary work on her, but we knew we would have to run a crowdfunding campaign in order to raise the money needed to fully convert her and make her accessible.1625056002_lindsay.jpg

How will it work?

Iris will be a not-for-profit project. When she is finished she will be available to rent through Quirky Campers. All profits generated will be used to subsidise the holidays of families with disabled children who want to use the van.

About Iris the Campervan

Iris is a brand new long-wheelbase high-roof Peugeot Boxer. 

When she has been converted into a campervan she will have seats and beds for up to five people.

1623932345_iris.jpg

Our accessible design

Through the design phase we’ve been in constant dialogue with disabled people and their carers about what accessible features are important to them.


We know that accessibility is in the detail, it’s not just the big things like wheelchair accessibility, it’s the smaller things too; blackout blinds for light-sensitive children or an extra capacity fridge so that there’s room for a child’s special diet.

Iris' accessible features

  • Iris is a new van because we know that reliability is essential for disabled people 
  • Wheelchair fastenings so a wheelchair user can travel in their chair 
  • A powerful electrical system so that families are not reliant on electric hook ups, and will be able to go completely off grid for periods of time, even if they need an oxygen concentrator
  • A lower bunk that can become a sensory area/timeout space
  • The capacity for the “children’s bedroom” at the back of the van to be partitioned off to create a bigger sensory area
  • Adjustable height bunk beds so parents and carers protect their backs when getting their child into bed and to make clothes and nappy/pad changes easier
  • Lower bed doubling up as a nappy/pad changing area
  • High sides on the bed to protect children from falling out
  • Blackout blinds for light-sensitive children and to assist children who are calmed by dim light
  • An extra capacity fridge/freezer so parents can take pre-prepared food with them for children on special diets
  • Kitchen accessories supplied to make blending food easier
  • A double bed stored above the seating to create storage for a wheelchair
  • Large storage area under the bunk beds
  • A state-of-the-art heating system so that the temperature can be easily adjusted
  • Hot running water, a shower head and a tub for washing
  • A silent heating system to avoid distressing ticking noises
  • Childproof locks and socket covers

1625494143_steves_drawing.jpg

The Team

1624557512_the_team.jpg

What's unique about Iris?

  • As far as we know Iris will be the first accessible hand-built campervan for rent in the UK
  • Iris is designed by parents of a disabled child and in consultation with other carers/parents and disabled people
  • Iris is designed with the needs of the whole family in mind, not just the disabled family member
  • Iris will have a powerful battery system which will allow families to go off grid for a couple of days, even when a family member is reliant on an oxygen generator. This offers peace of mind and the unique opportunity for families who are longing to head into the wilds to be able to do so

Is there a demand for Iris?

Yes there is! Every step along the way families have come forward to say they have been looking for an accessible campervan to hire out and that they think this is a brilliant idea.

Iris isn’t just going to be for families who want to go on campervan holidays. We know that many weekends of the year she’ll be parked outside the houses of grandparents or friends, or be parked at a wedding venue.

1624569325_nerys.jpg

1624569356_poppy.jpg

1625051069_sarah.jpg

1624569389_gemma.jpg

How much is it all going to cost?

Converting a van is an expensive undertaking, but to make it accessible costs a great deal more.

It’s not just the obvious things, such as wheelchair access and ramps, it's also about the use of space. Campervans are small spaces and use clever design in order for them to feel spacious enough to live in - we had all this to think about, but we also had to make space for a wheelchair. 

So for example, we are overcoming this problem by spending £1,500 on a bed which is stored in the ceiling by day. The design is full of clever uses of space that we're very proud of, but they all push the price up.  

Vans can only safely carry so much weight, so have had to choose the lightest materials possible to offset the heavy items that Iris will be carrying, like wheelchairs and heavy equipment. The light-weight choice is very often the more expensive choice.

1625413409_finances_-_donations.jpg

The conversion is going to cost £25,000 in total - before the campaign started we already had £6,650 donated from companies who have got behind the project.

We started the campaign with the hope of raising a further £14,000 - which are the costs associated with making the van accessible. We chose this amount as we thought it was a realistic target that we could achieve, given how busy our lives already are with our children, work and all the additional challenges of having a disabled child.

The generosity of the people supporting us has astonished us and we made not only our first target but also our second target in the first week!


Stage 1 - raise £14,000 to pay for the accessible aspects of the conversion - COMPLETED

1626345585_stage_1.jpg

Stage 2 - raise an additional £9,000 (Total £23,000) - COMPLETED

This will pay for the entire conversion as well as fund us to employ somebody for 8 weeks to help Cody with the conversion. This would mean the project will be finished sooner.

1625837330_stretch_target.jpg 

Stage 3 - money so we can subsidise holidays of low-income families 

Our ultimate aim is to find ways of subsidising the holidays of the families that want to use Iris, especially those families who are struggling financially. We know from first-hand experience how much having a disabled child can affect the finances of a family.

Families like ours face additional costs in so many ways; it might be the toys and equipment their child needs, or the fact that there is often no wraparound or holiday clubs for disabled children, it might be that their child needs expensive food supplements to keep them healthy. And there are also many barriers to finding and staying in work if you are a parent carer.

We are hoping to raise £6,000 to create a pot of money we can use to subsidise the holidays of families who would struggle to pay the full cost of Iris.

We have secured £3,000 of match funding for this stage which means we only need to raise £3,000 to reach our £6,000 goal.  


Stage 4

If we make it to £29,000 we will invest the money in paying off some of the big loan we took out to buy Iris.

As a family with a disabled child we too face financial challenges. We both work part time in order to be able to accommodate the demands of having a disabled child, as well as having to manage the logistics of having two children schooling in different parts of the city.

Having some of the van loan paid off would undoubtedly help us to help other families more effectively.

It was very important to us that we raised the money for other family's holidays before we turned to this final goal, and we know we might not make it this far.

Our sponsors

We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the companies we've contacted and would like to say a huge thank you to all those companies who have donated their products and given their time and expertise.

1625413097_sponsors_smaller.jpg

                                                   

Timeline

Iris is the culmination of Cody and Jemima's interests, expertise and passions. She has her roots in Cody's love for tiny homes but never would have been dreamed up if Cali hadn't been born with a chromosome condition. 

Cody has started work on Iris already, she's insulated, has her wiring planned and the seats and wheelchair track in position. Following the crowdfund we anticipate he will need three more months to get her completely ready for Quirky Campers.

1625054663_timeline.jpg

 

The future

Our ideas for Iris certainly don’t stop with her creation!

Once Iris is built we move onto phase two.

In phase two we will look to attract funding to subsidise holidays for families with disabled children. We think this is important as having a disabled child often impacts on a family's ability to earn money. 

FAQs

Is Iris only for disabled children, can disabled adults use her too?

Iris is for any disabled person, child or adult. However, due to the size, weight and space restrictions Iris won’t have a ceiling hoist, which will make her less accessible to adults and older children that need this equipment. 

Why do you refer to “disabled children” and not “children with a disability”

We are using the social model of disability that believes a person isn’t disabled themselves, but that society disables people by not being accessible.

Why are your subtitles in Spanish?

We have had so much support from Spain which is where Cody grew up. If anybody needs English subtitles then the original video is available here.

About the film

A massive shout of thanks to Ronit Meranda for the creation of this crowdfunding video, and to her husband Tim Bamber who wrote the music.

These wonderful people put their faith in our project and offered their professional expertise and time in exchange for the promise of time in Iris when she is complete. Their daughter's set of needs is one of many that we considered in the design of Iris.

1625412401_thank_you_2.jpg

Got an idea like this?

Over £200 million has been raised from our crowd to support the projects they love! Plus tens of millions more unlocked by our partners.