Tracie’s family is supported by BraunAbility and their dealer, Superior Van and Mobility, in Fishers, IN. When you purchase a mobility product from BraunAbility, you join a powerful community.
Tracie Ridgeway is the owner of a BraunAbility Toyota Sienna Hybrid van, which she passionately refers to as ‘Hope’. For Tracie, ‘Hope’ is more than just a mode of transportation. The wheelchair accessible vehicle represents freedom to the world outside her home.
Life Before a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
Prior to 2020, Tracie worked as a nurse for over 20 years and spent weekends on her motorcycle, road tripping with her husband Darrell. Tracie loved riding, but a gradual loss in her mobility meant the couple could no longer travel together. Eventually, Tracie utilized services from the ALS Association (ALSA).
Tracie lives with a diagnosis similar to ALS, called Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS). She also has Charcot Marie Tooth Disease. These conditions impact her mobility, causing gait instability, muscle weakness, muscle spasticity, and frequent falls. She wears leg braces and uses a rollator, and her power wheelchair to maintain her mobility, but when she’s looking to go a further distance, she gets behind the wheel in her wheelchair accessible Toyota.
Getting Behind the Wheel in a Wheelchair Van
The first time Tracie drove her wheelchair van, she felt empowered, liberated, and free, or, as she put it, “[I was] a force to be reckoned with”. Tracie’s Toyota Sienna Hybrid is unique, as hers is a 50th anniversary edition BraunAbility Toyota Rampvan®, complete with a side-entry foldout ramp and custom lower body striping.
Tracie emphasized, “I love everything about my vehicle…everything,” but a few of her favorite features include the spacious interior, the navigation, the van’s sleek look, and the heated seats. She is especially fond of the hybrid build, which allows the van to get good gas mileage.
I can even set my granddaughter on my lap in my chair and drive right up into my van and put her in her car seat in the back. This was a big deal for me as it allows me to feel like a ‘normal’ grandma, even if for a moment.
- Tracie Ridgeway
Tracie’s Newfound Mobility Independence
Thanks to the vehicle’s adaptive modifications, Tracie can drive her power wheelchair up into her van and transfer into the driver’s seat, so she can run errands, attend appointments, and most importantly, spend time with family.
Recently, she took a trip with her husband, parents, sister, and brother-in-law to South Dakota, a trip which Tracie said would have been impossible without ‘Hope’. When she’s not going on a road trip, Tracie enjoys spending time with her granddaughter. For Tracie, the Toyota Sienna allows her to feel just like everyone else, she said:
“I can even set my granddaughter on my lap in my chair and drive right up into my van and put her in her car seat in the back. This was a big deal for me as it allows me to feel like a ‘normal’ grandma, even if for a moment”.
While Tracie and her husband may not ride motorcycles together today, their wheelchair van has reminded them of what they cherish most: spending time together, making memories, and maintaining a positive outlook. Tracie said: “Gosh....I'm a trainwreck physically, but I'll tell you what I can do...I can smile and be grateful and thankful for every day I wake up... I love life and living, and I refuse to give up living life because of 6 stupid letters PLS and CMT!”
Tracie doesn’t let her disabilities keep her from living life to the fullest, and she hopes others who can relate to her story see the value a wheelchair van can bring to their own life. If you’re looking into a wheelchair van like the Toyota Sienna Hybrid, Tracie says, “It’s the best decision you will ever make. Just do it!”
Supporting the ALS Association and Tracie’s Treckers
When they’re not traveling in their Toyota Sienna Tracie and Darrell support the ALS Association, giving back to the organization that has provided resources to families like theirs. This year, Tracie will be participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS in memory of her late friend Pat Vaughan, who also had PLS. To learn more about the ALS Association and the Walk to Defeat ALS, visit the ALS Association website, and Tracie’s Walk to Defeat ALS page.
Looking for more stories like Tracie’s? Check out the customer testimonials below to find out how BraunAbility products are changing lives.
Read Other Customer Stories
Trust me when I say that I have had my fair share of accessible vans! ... never before have I been so pleased as I have been with my ... 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid with the BraunAbility conversion ... wow, it is awesome!