At BraunAbility we make a wide variety of wheelchair lifts, wheelchair minivans and paratransit van conversions. But, one of our most unique products is the Chair Topper, carriers for folding wheelchairs.
The technical details can be found in the Chair Topper section of the BraunAbility website. Basically, it is a carrier which is mounted on the roof of the vehicle. Electric motors open the box and send a hook down to the wheelchair, then up and into the box goes the folded wheelchair.
When people first see these things, they are amazed by the technology. Every Chair Topper user has probably heard the words “what will they think of next” a hundred times.
It’s not unusual for people to stop and stare at the Chair Topper. Our dealer in the United Arab Emirates saw one while he was visiting our shop. “I sold one,” he told me “but we had to remove it.” His customer would unload and go into a store then come back out to find a crowd of people around his vehicle. In their society it is considered rude for him to simply drive away, so he would spend the next half hour in the hot sun demonstrating the Chair Topper to his countrymen. The poor guy could never get anywhere without long delays, so he had it taken off.
People who see the Chair Topper for the first time are also convinced they are looking at a brand-new design. That is a tribute to the guys who first engineered the Chair Topper because the basic design is over 25 years old. About 5 years ago we gave it a face-lift and a diet by replacing the outer covers with light-weight and attractive plastic covers and replacing some of the steel insides with aluminum components. Thanks to that lighter weight and its new “shipability” we now sell the Chair Topper all over the world.
Part of the secret of our Chair Topper’s success is the time and patience our dealers take to properly fit their customers. The wheelchair must fit into the Chair Topper and the Chair Topper must fit onto the car. A great deal of care goes into the measuring and fitting process.
About 20 years ago we installed a Chair Topper for an older lady who always carried around a tiny dog in her purse. The car, a little Honda, had a moonroof, which made installation a little tricky, but it worked. She told us she didn’t care if she could no longer see the moon while driving.
We got a call from her two months later for a new door for the access hatch on the Chair Topper. She had left her little dog in the car with the moonroof open for air while she went shopping. A passer-by heard the dog barking and thought it was locked inside the box on top of the car. She summoned a police officer who proceeded to rip open the access door. Of course, there was not a dog in the Chair Topper. When our customer returned she was given a ticket for leaving her pet in the car. To add insult to injury, she had to pay to get the Chair Topper repaired.
We will never again install a Chair Topper on a car with a moonroof owned by a lady with a lapdog, unless, of course, Paris Hilton decides she needs one.
The Chair Topper is part of so many stories, both humorous and serious because it’s also a part of many people’s lives. We’re always interested in hearing them, so let us know if you have an interesting Chair Topper tail by commenting below!