Accessible Tent

Development of accessible tent technology was undertaken to improve access to camping for People with Disabilities.  Two different design tracks were taken: one was an accessible vestibule which could attach to a wide range of tents; and the other was a tent/vestibule combination.

The tent/vestibule combination design was licensed to Eureka, and they manufactured and sold the Freedom Tent from 2006-2012.

The Freedom Tent won the MS Society’s 2006 DaVinci Award.

The Need

People like to go camping with their families and friends, even when someone in the family has a disability.

Existing tents fall short of being accessible, with entryways that restrict access to the tent, no place to store your wheelchair, and doors with zippers that require dexterity and significant range of motion to operate them.  In addition, people need outdoor toilets that are accessible and private.

Proposed Solution

The original concept:  An accessible “universal vestibule” that would attach to existing tents which provided a space to store their wheelchair and/or use as an accessible outdoor toilet.
The goal was to develop and commercialize tent technology which met the needs of people with and without disabilities, and appealed to a broader audience–so it could be manufactured at a competitive price.

Technical Development

BlueSky Designs was awarded Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grants to develop an accessible tent and vestibule which was:

  • Accessible to people with disabilities
  • Attractive to all campers
  • Designed for ease of use
  • Easy to manufacture (standard tent materials, components, methods)
  • Affordable Price ($250-450)

The project involved the design and fabrication of many iterations of tent and vestibule structures, 6-8 door styles, and accessories to make it easier to set up a tent, such as the patented pole holsters.

Design features of the resulting Freedom tent included:

  • A zipperless door, making it easier for someone in a wheelchair to open and close
  • Side windows which could be unzipped to allow a lateral transfer into the sleeping area
  • A floorless vestibule to provide a sheltered space for a person’s wheelchair or a commode
  • Pole set-up made easier from a seated position, with dead end sleeves


Two very different tent concepts resulted. The first is a “Universal Shelter/Vestibule,” which can stand alone or connect to different tents or vans.

The second design combined a usable vestibule with a sleeping area.
Six different accessible door concepts were developed and tested. Results showed a redesign of tent technology significantly improved the usability and accessibility of tents.

Testing was done indoors in the early stages, but in Phase 2 prototypes were field tested by staff and participants in four inclusive outdoor recreation programs:

  • Wilderness Inquiry
  • Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
  • National Sports Center for the Disabled

Field testing took place in Colorado, on the Colorado River, in the Grand Canyon, on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior.


The combined vestibule/tent design was licensed to Eureka to be manufactured and sold.  The Fan door design was also licensed to them, and used in other applications, such as an ATV “garage”.

The resulting Freedom Tent won the 2006 DaVinci Award.  Eureka sold it until 2012, but has since discontinued production and sale of the tent.

If you are interested in licensing one or more of the patented designs please contact us at su.sngisedykseulb@ofni


The Accessible Tent was licensed to Eureka, and BlueSky Designs was awarded the 2006 DaVinci Award, for the resulting Freedom Tent.

The DaVinci Award®, is given by the Michigan chapter of the National MS Society to honor outstanding engineering achievements relative to design process, product design and applied research in accessibility and universal design.

  1. Goodwin D., S. Rovig, and K. Kinney, inventors; BlueSky Designs, Inc., assignee. 2003. Collapsible Structure with Door Mechanism. U.S. Patent 7588045 B2
  2. Goodwin D., S. Rovig, and K. Kinney inventors; BlueSky Designs, Inc., assignee. 2007. Tent Pole Brackets and Methods of Use. U.S. Patent 7228867
  3. Goodwin D., S. Rovig, and K. Kinney, inventors; BlueSky Designs, Inc., assignee. 2006. Tent. U.S. Patent D516,155.
  4. Goodwin D., S. Rovig, and K. Kinney, inventors; BlueSky Designs, Inc., assignee. 2006. Tent and Fly. U.S. Patent D519,595

Additional Information

The accessible tent project was made possible through
USDA SBIR Phases 1 & 2, in which Dianne Goodwin was the Principal Investigator.
BlueSky Designs was awarded both Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grants to develop an accessible tent design to make the outdoors more accessible to people with disabilities and their families.