Rise Above

How one man’s search for mobility helped the world get moving

"Necessity is the mother of invention." It's a common expression that if you didn't know before, you know as soon as you start working for or with BraunAbility. It is an expression that sums up Ralph Braun's story and the story of the company that was born from his early efforts for personal mobility. 

Rise Above recounts Ralph's life, from his diagnosis of muscular dystrophy to his early advocacy work at his local high school through his career as an entreprenuer until eventually he became the CEO of the largest manufacturer for wheelchair accessible vehicles and lifts in the world. 

If you've ever visited an Abilities Expo or walked into a dealer showroom, you're likely to hear at least a portion of Ralph's story. Now, we are making it free for everyone to learn how one man successfully shaped the mobility industry into what it is today out of necessity and gave us a legacy to live up to in the future. 

Says Ralph, "No matter the obstacle, no matter the challenge, no matter what other people may think about you, you can rise above anything you face." 

Ralph recalls the moment he was given a diagnosis – and a death sentence. Unaccepting of his “fate,” Ralph went on to create an industry and shape the future.

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Ralph describes the character that comes from being the son of “dirt-farmers” and how those values helped him achieve his personal and business goals.

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Ralph names his heroes – and tells the stories behind the people who made him who he is.

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Faced with a difficult diagnosis, Ralph’s parents find treatments for Ralph and juggle their responsibilities with farming.

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When the local school refused to install an elevator, Ralph misses his junior and senior years since he couldn’t reach his classes.

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Ralph resists, and eventually accepts, his need for a wheelchair and saves his money to create a motorized scooter from scratch.

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Ralph scours local contacts and magazines to find the necessary parts to finesse his motorized scooter design.

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Ralph builds a scooter for his first customer, and more begin pouring in. Ralph begins to learn the fundamentals of business.

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Ralph reflects on the mentors who helped him in the course of his career and the advice they gave that helped Ralph grow his business.

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When Ralph’s full-time job moved two miles from town, he created an accessible vehicle he could drive independently from his scooter.

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Ralph modifies a full-size van which allows him to drive others, laying the groundwork for the modern conversions BraunAbility builds today.

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News of Ralph’s latest lift gets out and Ralph hires hands to help him complete lifts for customers all over the country.

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Ralph leaves his full-time job to focus on growing his lift and scooter business, despite many roadblocks along the way.

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The Vietnam War, changes in legislation, and increasing word-of-mouth advertising meant a big boon to Ralph’s business in the 1970s.

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Ralph expands to fiberglass, trying out new products and business ventures. Ralph even opens a Dairy Queen franchise in his hometown.

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In the summer of 1979, Ralph’s factory catches fire. Though it was especially damaging, most documents were saved and no one was hurt.

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Ralph invests in new machinery and office technology to build up the business again, this time even bigger than before.

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Ralph recounts run ins with partners and competitors that required some hard calls and what Ralph would call “sticking to your guns.”

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Ralph expands his dealer partnerships to serve more of North America and goes to great lengths to protect the brand name and product quality.

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Ralph explains the power in the dealer network he built for his company and why it outserves the internet competitors time after time, sale after sale.

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Ralph reflects on his lifetime spent consistently building his company and looks forward to the future of innovation at BraunAbility.

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Ralph uses his story to ask the reader: what would you choose? When faced with adversity or impossible odds, will you rise above?

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