“Get Out and Live”
Friendly Wheels, Issue 67
With Amigo owner Barbara Gratzke, her husband Bill and the Handicap Travel Club
Barbara and Bill Gratzke of Homestead, Fla. certainly make their rounds while traveling – they travel six to eight months of the year in an accessible RV!
The Gratzkes’ drive a highly customized, used RV that was adapted before they purchased it. RV’s have come a long way when it comes to accessibility and have many options to remove barriers, including lifts, modified bathrooms and even ceiling lifts within the RV.
Barbara has been active in the post-polio support community for years and continues this advocacy while traveling. She also chaired the Miami-Dade County Commission on Disability to advocate for making the area more accessible.
With Barbara and Bill’s support and advocacy, the Miami area must now have accessible cabs available at the airport and surrounding areas. To honor Barbara’s efforts for local disability advocacy, the Health Foundation of South Florida awarded her the $10,000 Concern Award, which she designated to her Miami post-polio group.
“A lot of times it’s just about educating people – most places don’t purposely aim to exclude people with disabilities, but letting them know about easy fixes that could make their facility more accessible can make all the difference,” Barbara said.
As is probably true with most grandparents, Bill and Barbara’s travels often center around visits to their grandchildren. “We always stop in St. Louis and Dallas to see our grandchildren – we have four total,” Bill said.
After they have a chance to visit their grandkids, the Gratzkes then focus on the annual rally for the Handicapped Travel Club (HTC), which is held in a different city each year. The rally includes a potluck dinner, wheelchair races, live music, silent auctions, bingo, campfires and opportunities to visit with friends.
The HTC was formed in 1973 to encourage people with a wide range of disabilities to travel – the club encourages people to “get out and live,” and currently has 250 members. “When we go to the HTC rally, it brings tears to my eyes,” Bill said. “To see people come together like that and to see people’s homemade accessibility adaptations is just wonderful.”
“We would love to have new members attend the 2014 rally. The HTC is not exclusively for RV’ers, it’s open to anyone interested in accessible travel,” Barbara said. The 2014 rally will be held in Rapid City, S.D.
When asked about their favorite travel destination, the Gratzkes were quick to say how much they love the west coast. “California and the rest of the west coast tends to be very progressive, and we’ve consistently found facilities to be more accessible there,” Barbara said.
The Gratzkes enjoyed the drive from San Diego to Seattle so much, they’ve done it twice! The Yosemite National Park was the most accessible of the parks they’ve visited. Bill also described the Grand Tetons as “spectacular” and very accessible. A few other favorite destinations include the Washington area and Asheville, N.C., where the Gratzkes enjoy mountain views and bluegrass music.
“I so appreciate the independence my Amigo affords me to travel,” Barbara said. We appreciate Barbara and Bill being part of the Amigo family, and we are so glad they were able to make a stop at the Amigo factory during their travels – best wishes on the rest of your trip!