Four Paws and Four Wheels: How a Wheelchair User and Her Service Dogs Get Around in a BraunAbility Honda Odyssey Wheelchair Van

“I feel completely taken care of...I feel so spoiled to say that I have a BraunAbility adapted van.”

Read More

Ask Gabi Johnson what her dream vehicle is, and you might be greeted with a chuckle followed by a few childhood stories. Growing up, Gabi’s mom ran an in-home daycare and had three kids of her own, so the Johnsons were "always a minivan family," according to Gabi.  

"I think since I was 5 years old, the Honda Odyssey has been my dream car," she said. "My best friend's mom had [a Honda Odyssey] and I was always asking, ‘can we go for a ride in your mom's car, please? It’s just so fun.’"  

Little did she know, she’d be driving her own wheelchair accessible Honda Odyssey a few years later. 

Finding the Perfect Wheelchair Van 

Johnson began using a wheelchair about two years ago due to multiple medical conditions, including scoliosis, kyphosis, and Bertolotti Syndrome, which impact her spinal cord and her mobility. She casually explored wheelchair accessible vehicles and was looking forward to attending the Abilities Expo, which would give her a chance to see the vehicles up close and find the perfect match. However, her plans changed when she totaled her non-accessible vehicle. 

"It would have cost insurance more money to pay for it than what the car was actually worth," she said, leading her to seriously consider a wheelchair accessible van.  

Johnson’s Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) led her to Liz, a woman selling her late husband's BraunAbility Honda Odyssey. The timing and the make of the vehicle felt like fate to Johnson.  

"I waited until after Christmas. I called her, and I was like, 'I'm interested in this car that you have.' When she said it was a Honda Odyssey, it felt like the universe [was] setting this up for me," Johnson said.  

She not only found the vehicle she had dreamed of since childhood but also found freedom. After Johnson got her wheelchair van, she took it to her local BraunAbility dealer, Cummings Mobility  

"I had them go through everything on the car. [It was in] mint condition. Perfect," she said.  

Despite her van being pre-owned, Johnson emphasized she’s had no issues since getting the vehicle last year, only needing to fill her tank up with gas and take care of routine vehicle maintenance recommended by her dealer. 

The BraunAbility Honda Odyssey Wheelchair Van 

Johnson describes her BraunAbility Honda Odyssey as her "favorite thing ever. “ 

Laughing, she said, "I'm very protective of my car. No one else is allowed to drive it. Don't look at it too hard. Don't breathe next to it. That is my baby. That is my vehicle.” 

The Honda Odyssey is fitted with a powered wheelchair ramp. Johnson is also particularly fond of the vehicle's hydraulic system—the entire vehicle lowers, making the ramp less steep so she can enter and exit with ease. She also enjoys the seat warmers, sunroof, and the spacious vehicle interior. 

The Spacious Interior of the BraunAbility Honda Odyssey 

The BraunAbility Honda Odyssey offers a spacious interior to accommodate Johnson's lifestyle. As a retail store manager, she embarks on a 45-minute commute every day, depending on her vehicle to not only transport herself but also her service dogs.  

"I have two service dogs; they ride in impact-tested crates. Those take up quite a bit of space, so I'm not bouncing between cars," she said, detailing how she utilizes the space by folding down the rear seats and securing the crates on top.  

This setup leaves room for her manual wheelchair and essential medical supplies, in addition to any shopping bags.  

"My sister and I are Target and TJ Maxx, people. So, we fill up the back of the car," she said. 

I'm very protective of my car. No one else is allowed to drive it. Don't look at it too hard. Don't breathe next to it. That is my baby. That is my vehicle.

- Gabi Johnson

BraunAbility Wheelchair Vans Change Lives 

Before getting her wheelchair accessible van, Johnson found her independence to be limited.  

She said, "I have issues with bending down, turning side to side, and lifting things, so I was putting myself in a really tricky position because I was having to disassemble my wheelchair each time."  

This not only limited how often she left the house but also required her to arrive at destinations well in advance—15 to 20 minutes earlier than usual—to assemble her wheelchair and conserve her energy. The physical toll of lifting her wheelchair in and out of her vehicle, coupled with chronic pain and fatigue, made Johnson feel "trapped."  

The sense of confinement extended to her daily life.  

"If I was at work, I couldn't go get lunch or if I was at home [I] didn't have the energy to go get groceries," she said.  

She resorted to having essentials delivered to her home, especially during the winter months, to avoid the process of assembling and disassembling her wheelchair. 

Finding Independence with the BraunAbility Honda Odyssey 

Johnson's journey with her wheelchair van has been filled with countless memories.  

Recalling her first trip in her wheelchair van, Johnson said, "I loaded up my dogs and my wheelchair and I took them to a field, and we played." She continued, "I didn't have to transfer out of my car, and the dogs fit. It was just the best."  

A year later, Johnson continues to be impressed by her van's functionality and accessibility, comparing it to a 'transformer.' Her comparison stems not only from watching her vehicle adapt each time the ramp deploys but also from the transformative impact the accessible vehicle has had on her life.  

Johnson encourages those who resonate with her story to look at BraunAbility vehicles.  

She said, "I wish I knew how much [my van] was going to save me. It's such a relief knowing I don't have to worry about my health when getting from point A to point B." She continued, "I feel completely taken care of...I feel so spoiled to say that I have a BraunAbility adapted van." 

To learn more about the Honda Odyssey and other BraunAbility mobility products, visit your local mobility dealer today. 

Johnson is supported by BraunAbility and her dealer, Cummings Mobility in Albertville, MN. When you purchase a BraunAbility mobility product, you join a powerful community. 

Read Other Customer Stories

I'm super independent. I can go to work. I can go get coffee. I can do whatever I want on my own anytime. It helps me be independent and not have to rely on people for getting me around.

Ryan Hudson Peralta, from Michigan Read More

I love driving anywhere, so every trip is fun. The best part is if I ever want to go home or if I have somewhere to be, I could just go whenever I want because I have my car.

Lawson Sizemore, from Illinois Read More

I named it Hope because this van literally gave me hope...hope to get out, hope to live, hope to have freedom again, hope to explore and see and do things I otherwise would not do or see.

Tracie Ridgeway, from Indiana Read More