Retired Teacher Finds Freedom in a BraunAbility Wheelchair Van

“I used to drive to work because I'm only two blocks away. I had a wheelchair at school. I parked close enough… my chair was right at the door.”

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A retired teacher, Lynn Will taught elementary aged students at a local Pennsylvania school for 25 years. Living most of her life with a disability, Will was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth disease (CMT) at 16. As her mobility has changed, she’s relied on BraunAbility vehicles for over a decade. 

Living with Charcot Marie Tooth Disease 

CMT is a neurological disorder affecting nerves in the arms and legs, causing a loss in mobility over time. Lynn described her disability saying,  

“I don’t have strength from my knees down or [strength] in my hands.” 

When Will attended college, mobility became a challenge. She could drive a non-accessible vehicle, but continued loss of strength made walking and driving difficult. 

Once Will graduated, she began teaching. 

“I used to drive to work because I'm only two blocks away. I had a wheelchair at school. I parked close enough… my chair was right at the door.”  

She continued, “I'd go into school, grab my wheelchair, come back out, grab all my stuff. Then at the end of the day, same thing. I'd go out to the car, put everything in, go back to put my chair in the school doorway, then go back to the car.” 

Not only was the process tiring for Will, but driving a non-adaptive car became dangerous for her when, due to loss of strength, she got her foot stuck between the gas and brake pedals. After the incident, Will felt it was best to stop driving and transition to a power wheelchair. While she could rely on her wheelchair to cover the two-block commute to work, traveling further distances became challenging. 

“I didn't go anywhere but work because I couldn’t. I didn’t have anyone that could take me [longer distances]”, explaining that other members of her family did not have an accessible van to transport her and her power wheelchair. With a lack of transportation, she began looking into accessible vehicles. 

A Loyal BraunAbility Customer 

Since becoming a power wheelchair user, Will has always driven BraunAbility vans. Her first vehicle was a Dodge Grand Caravan, but today she drives a Chrysler Town & Country

Will’s vehicle was first modified with a BraunAbility transfer seat. With forward, backward, and swivel capabilities, the seat allowed her to transfer from her power wheelchair into the driver’s seat. 

When these transfers became challenging for Will, she said, “I thought I was gonna have to stop driving. But when I went to my dealer, they're the ones that said, 'Oh, you can drive from your wheelchair.'" 

With a wheelchair securement system installed in the floor of her vehicle, Will could position her power wheelchair into the driver’s seat and buckle herself in, just as any driver would. The locking mechanism keeps her chair from moving, and she relies on hand controls to drive. 

I didn't go anywhere but work because I couldn’t. I didn’t have anyone that could take me [longer distances]

- Lynn Will

Finding Independence through Adaptive Driving

Able to go beyond work and home, Will enjoys spending time with her granddaughter, whom she has raised from a young age. The two enjoy the simple pleasures of mobility freedom. 

Will said, “it's funny, but our favorite thing to do is go and get takeout and then we find an empty parking lot and we just sit in the car together and eat and talk.”

The furthest Will has traveled in her vehicle was to Pittsburgh, roughly two hours from her hometown.  

She tends to stay close to home, expressing frustration with misuse of handicap parking spots. According to Lynn, people often park in the access aisles of accessible parking spaces, leaving her stuck, because she doesn’t have space to deploy her wheelchair ramp. 

Despite her frustrations, Lynn looks forward to the day her granddaughter can drive, which will not only allow her to avoid situations of handicap parking misuse, but the two plan to go on more adventures together.

“We have a plan…when she's 16, we're going to the beach and she's gonna drive”, she said.

Now retired, Will uses her vehicle day-to-day, driving her granddaughter to and from school, attending her local church, and visiting family.  

Will encourages those who are looking into a wheelchair accessible vehicle to visit a local BraunAbility dealer. She also wants others to be aware of wheelchair van grants and funding as well as financing options which can be used to help curb costs so you can get behind the wheel too.

Will is supported by BraunAbility and her local mobility dealer, Total Mobility in Boswell, PA. When you purchase a mobility product from BraunAbility, you join a powerful community. 

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