- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - David Sherrer doesn’t let the fact that he’s in a wheelchair stop him from enjoying RV travel. Now he’s dedicating the next few years of his life to show others with disabilities that they too can hit the road on a cross-country adventure.

“I want to help people enjoy life,” Sherrer said.

Sherrer, a paraplegic and executive director of Qchair Traveler, will spend at least the next four years traveling around North America to advance travel accessibility for people with disabilities. Qchair Traveler is a nonprofit that works to bring awareness of disability issues in the travel industry. Sherrer said he will spend winters in the South and plans to eventually make it up to Canada and possibly Alaska.

And Sherrer’s trip is going to be easier thanks to the help of two local manufacturers - Lippert Components and Furrion LLC. Sherrer already had his toy-hauler RV equipped with some upgrades like a pulley system and altered interior to accommodate his wheelchair, but the two companies took his ease of travel to the next level.

Sherrer was given upgrades like keyless locks, power stabilizers, a power awning and a backup camera, among comfort additions like a new mattress and TV. Many of the things, the 52-year-old explained, not only make travel easier, but considerably safer as well.

Sherrer, currently living in North Carolina, was in the Michiana area recently to have the new upgrades installed on his RV. He ended his stay at the South Bend/ Elkhart KOA Campground in Granger where he got to test out the upgrades before embarking on his trip.

Loving to travel, bringing awareness to the difficulties people with disabilities can face has been a cause for Sherrer for almost 26 years. He said he started his first advocacy group just nine months after he was shot and paralyzed in 1989.

The idea for this lengthy awareness campaign came from Sherrer wanting to find something that would give his cause the most visibility, but remain on the Qchair budget. And now having the time to dedicate to travel, he said, this is also a way for him to see parts of North America he has always wanted to. Seeing one of the great lakes was on his bucket list, something he’s now able to check off.

But Sherrer has big goals driving his trip, targeting not only RV companies, but travel destinations as well. There are many inexpensive changes campgrounds can make, Sherrer said, like using ramps instead of steps in new construction and installing flat door handles instead of rounded knobs, that make huge differences to people with disabilities.

There’s also a more universal design that manufactures could be utilizing, he said, like having wider doors, that will go a long way to improve travel for consumers. The biggest goal, though, is to show other disabled people that RV travel is for everyone.

“I want them to see if I can do it, and on a budget, then there’s no reason they can’t give it a try,” Sherrer said.

Furrion’s involvement in the project “just made sense,” Amy Viscsik, a spokeswoman for the company, said. Sherrer’s trip is partly about safety issues, Viscsik said, and that’s what Furrion’s products, like the backup camera, are about.

Beyond getting involved to be responsible community stewards, Sherrer is a great spokesman for how Lippert Components’ products can make camping much easier and enjoyable, said Jarrod Lippert, the companies vice president of marketing and public relations. Lippert said the company saw it as a unique opportunity to support a good cause while also building organic marketing to reach consumers in a way other than traditional advertising.

And as long as Sherrer can make a difference for people with disabilities, he said, he’ll have accomplished his goal.

“If I can motivate one person it will be worth it. I hope I can motivate a lot more, but that’s what it’s about,” Sherrer said. “I just want to help people.”

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Source: South Bend Tribune, https://bit.ly/1cd60jR

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com


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