The story of BraunAbility is the story of Ralph Braun and how he overcame his own physical limitations. Follow our history to see how a part time company with humble beginnings in a garage quickly grew into a world-wide corporation...
- Ralph Braun
- A Simple Idea
- A New Challenge
- An Industry is Born
- The Minivan Revolution
- Mobility becomes Ability
At an early age, Ralph Braun was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. The degenerative nature of the disease left him unable to walk at age 15, and he distinctly remembers thinking at the time, "You're dead when you hit the chair for good." Thankfully for him and for thousands of wheelchair users, his outlook on life would brighten dramatically as he entered his early twenties. Despite the limitations on his mobility and society's unfavorable attitudes toward the disabled, Ralph was able to complete his education and gain employment as a clerk at the local hospital.
A Simple Idea
Necessity truly is the mother of invention. When the standard "iron monster" wheelchair left Ralph completely exhausted at day's end, he began to think there had to be a better way. He started to tinker in his cousin's farm shop, and soon the world's first electric scooter was born. Ralph dubbed his invention the Tri-Wheeler, and word quickly spread among the disabled community. It seemed there were many others who weren't content to sit still, and Ralph began to take orders and build Tri-Wheelers in his parent's garage under the name Save-A-Step Manufacturing.
A New Challenge
In the early years, Ralph rode his Tri-Wheeler the short distance to and from work in all kinds of weather. But when his employer relocated further away from his home, the snowy Indiana winters presented a new transportation challenge. Once again, he took to the shop and soon the first wheelchair lift was created for a retired post office Jeep. A few years later, the arrival of the full-size van sparked the creation of the Lift-A-Way wheelchair lift. Again, the disabled community took note. Ralph began to get insistant phone calls, and he worked nights and weekends to meet the demand.
An Industry is Born
Ralph found it increasingly difficult to manage his growing family, a full-time job and the Save-A-Step business. It was clear that something had to give, and he made the difficult decision to quit his job and focus his efforts on his fledgling company. Save-A-Step was soon incorporated under the name The Braun Corporation, and the organization enjoyed phenomenal growth through the 70's and 80's. Many of Ralph's first customers became dealers across the country, laying the foundation of a strong distribution network that endures to this day.
The Minivan Revolution
With the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, the disabled community was awarded unprecedented access to public places. Soon after, a revolutionary product was introduced: the Entervan. This lowered floor minivan offered unparalleled ease of access for wheelchair users, and it quickly became the flagship of the Braun product line as thousands discovered a newfound independence. What started in a garage had grown into a worldwide corporation in just 20 short years, and Ralph remained at the helm of the company – and the industry – he had created.
Mobility becomes Ability
With the help of Braun mobility products, people with disabilities have become an integral part of society over the past decades. The public's attention has shifted from a focus on an individual's limitations, to a celebration of their abilities. This gave birth to the name BraunAbility, and our pledge to redefine the Ability Industry in the years to come. Our name may have changed, but one thing never will: we remain committed to helping individuals lead full and active lives, one customer at a time. Because – as Ralph Braun has known all along – Life is a Moving Experience.