A Cross Country Road Trip in a Wheelchair Accessible SUV

“Don’t live life through a window. Look into these vehicles. It will completely and utterly change your life.”

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Can you imagine traveling 9,146 miles across the country and visiting 27 states in just 33 days? Well, that's exactly what Henry Eichner did this past Summer. However, Henry didn't utter the infamous road trip adage of 'Are we there yet?' Instead, he took in the entire road trip while driving from his wheelchair in his 2021 BraunAbility Chevrolet Traverse with adaptive driving controls. 

Life Before a Wheelchair Accessible SUV

Henry lives with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, a condition which causes muscles to weaken and atrophy in all four limbs. As a result, he uses a wheelchair to get around. Henry described life before his wheelchair accessible vehicle as being incredibly challenging. He had to rely on others to load his wheelchair in and out of a vehicle that was not wheelchair accessible. Because he coordinated his schedule around those who helped drive him, he didn’t have the spontaneity that he says many drivers take for granted when they get behind the wheel. He said: “To have to sit at home and look out your window, and the furthest you can go from your home is how far your chair can carry you…it was miserable.” 

BraunAbility Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles Versus Other Wheelchair Van Sellers 

Luckily for Eichner, his BraunAbility vehicles changed his outlook. Eichner has been a long-time customer of BraunAbility. In fact, he’s driven BraunAbility vehicles for almost a decade. He said, “There are other conversions out there, I don’t know how reputable they are. The only one I’ve ever delt with is BraunAbility, and I’ve never had any problems.” 

Transitioning From a Wheelchair Van to a Wheelchair Accessible SUV

Before getting his wheelchair accessible Traverse, Henry drove a Dodge Grand Caravan. Like many, Henry initially thought his accessible vehicle options were limited to vans, so when he found the Traverse, he was excited by the sleek look and spacious interior of the vehicle. He said, 

“When I found out that I could get a Traverse, I was all excited about it because there is really no other [wheelchair accessible] SUV out there that you can get.”

Making Memories in an Accessible Chevrolet Traverse

Henry certainly put his accessible SUV to the test on his recent road trip. The Traverse was packed to the brim with suitcases, and Henry’s medical equipment, as well as a few of Henry’s family members. They even piled bags on the roof of the SUV. Despite the vehicles heavy load, the trip went off without a hitch. In fact, Henry described the Traverse as a “beast”, because it handled the trip so well.

The group visited over half of the U.S. states, with stops to see Mt. Rushmore, The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and the Badlands, just to name a few. More importantly, Henry and his family made lasting memories, thanks to the wheelchair accessible Traverse. Henry said,

“We got to experience things that we all thought we would never see. We make memories in [the Traverse] all the time because we can go. We’re not held up by anything.”

We got to experience things that we all thought we would never see. We make memories in [the Traverse] all the time because we can go. We’re not held up by anything.

- Henry Eichner

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles Change Lives

During the trip, Henry and his family collected bumper stickers. They gathered 22 stickers, one for nearly every stop on their road trip. The stickers now decorate the back window of Henry’s accessible SUV, yet they represent more than just the trip: Henry’s bumper stickers remind him to keep a positive outlook. Henry acknowledges living with a disability can sometimes bring up feelings of loss of dignity and independence, but he says accessible vehicles can change that. In his words:

“A car like this allows you to be your own person. It allows you to have your independence. It allows you to keep your dignity.”

When he’s not going on a family road trip, Henry uses his wheelchair SUV to run errands, drive his son to and from school, and go for a drive to see the local springs in his home state of Florida. Henry’s SUV has played a vital role in allowing him to explore the world and maintain his family role as a father and a husband. Henry encourages those who can relate to his story:

“Don’t live life through a window. Look into these vehicles. It will completely and utterly change your life.”

You can learn more about Henry’s accessible SUV on his YouTube Channel, Rolling with Henry, where he documented his road trip. Want to learn more about wheelchair accessible SUVs and accessible vehicle modifications? Contact a BraunAbility dealer to find the right accessible vehicle for you.

Henry is supported by BraunAbility and his dealer, MobilityWorks in Tampa, FL. When you purchase a mobility product from BraunAbility, you join a powerful community. 

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