Ralph Braun had a way of inspiring and challenging others to reach their full potential through demonstrating hero-like abilities in his own life. Braun exhibited a quality few people possess. He believed in leadership through example. Obstacles in his path were seen as challenges. His creative processes worked on ways of overcoming obstacles.
Early Years: Ralph Braun was born in December 1940, in Winamac, Indiana. His parents took Braun to see a physician at the age of six due to his wobbly legs. Physicians diagnosed him with muscular dystrophy in 1947. The doctors did not think he would live beyond his teens. It was later determined that he actually had spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease. By the age of 14, Braun began utilizing a wheelchair. He expressed an independent nature even at a young age.
Inventions: The following year, with assistance from his dad, the beginning stages of BraunAbility took the shape of a motorized wagon. His desire to live unassisted fueled his ambition and creative mind. A few years later, Braun designed a motorized scooter in his cousin’s farm shop. The scooter represented freedom and a way to overcome society’s barriers. The scooter allowed him the mobility to travel to and from work at a manufacturing plant where he worked as a Quality Control Manager. When the plant moved further away, Braun revamped an old Jeep mail truck with a hydraulic tailgate lift that operated by hand controls. He could drive the motorized scooter onto the tailgate lift and drive himself to work.
Businesses: Braun started a company manufacturing motorized scooters in 1963, called Save-A-Step. Two years after Braun installed a hydraulic lift platform onto a full-size van in 1970, he changed the name of his business to Braun Corporation. A fire destroyed the company in 1979, but the company rebuilt new facilities. The company introduced the Entervan, a totally accessible minivan, based on a Dodge Caravan in 1991. Braun Corporation purchased a company that built wheelchair platform lifts and a manufacturer for Toyota Sienna wheelchair accessible minivans. Viewpoint Mobility and AutoAdapt were also acquired. The brand name BraunAbility was adopted in 2006.
Legacy Continues: Ralph Braun passed away in 2013, leaving behind a wife and five adult children. In 2015, BraunAbility is the leading global manufacturer of mobility products and employs over 850 individuals. An autobiography of his life story, Rise Above, is available in many bookstores across the nation. Proceeds from the sale of the book assist individuals with a financial need to purchase mobility equipment. The devoted leadership and loyal staff proceed to the future with the same vision and quality values as Ralph Braun, as his legacy continues.
(Photo is courtesy of Access to Independence 2015 as uploaded by New York City Department at Flickr’s Creative Commons.)