Accessibility

Braun Corp. founder, CEO dies

Posted on March 13, 2013 by METRO Magazine Staff

Despite his disability — Braun was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at six years old — he is credited with helping to create the mobility industry.
Despite his disability — Braun was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at six years old — he is credited with helping to create the mobility industry.
Ralph Braun, who made important developments in mobility for people with special needs — including himself — has died. The founder and CEO of The Braun Corp. passed away in February at age 72.

Among his contributions, Braun is remembered for his efforts to ensure that students with disabilities could get to and from school safely.

Braun is credited with helping to create the mobility industry, driven initially by his own mobility needs.

In 1947, Braun was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at six years old. He credited his parents with instilling in him the will to overcome the challenges his disability — and society — presented him.

At about age 20, Braun engineered his first mobility product: a motorized scooter, which he dubbed the Tri-Wheeler. The scooter let him conserve energy and keep his job as a quality control inspector at a factory near his home — he could ride the scooter to and from work.

Braun captured the attention of people with disabilities as his mobility increased. His part-time business, filling orders for Tri-Wheelers from his parents’ garage, grew into Save-A-Step Manufacturing.

When the factory where Braun worked moved a few miles from his home, he outfitted an old postal Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic lift. The additions allowed him to drive his Tri-Wheeler into and out of the Jeep, giving him reliable transportation to and from work in any weather.

A few years later, when Dodge introduced the first full-size, front-engine van, Braun made another groundbreaking innovation: He devised a way to install a wheelchair lift on the van, enabling people with disabilities to travel on the road with their wheelchairs.

A vital lift
In 1972, Save-A-Step was incorporated under a new name, The Braun Corp. For much of the ‘70s and ‘80s, the company’s product line focused on the wheelchair lift.

“Not only did this product revolutionize consumer mobility, but it forever changed public transportation as well,” company officials said in a statement. “Finally, buses and vans could be outfitted with wheelchair lifts to allow universal public transportation from city and state governments. Most importantly, children across the country were offered accessible transportation to and from school — a benefit that didn’t seem possible when Ralph was a young man encountering multiple roadblocks to his own public education.”

Braun Corp. went on to introduce a lowered-floor minivan. Ralph Braun also created a network of dealers across the country to evaluate individuals’ needs and circumstances to find the best mobility option for them.

Today, the company offers wheelchair-accessible conversions on various minivans, as well as multiple lift platforms and additional mobility products.

The Braun Corp., which now employs close to 850 people, continues to be based in Ralph Braun’s hometown, Winamac, Ind.

Moving tributes
Last year, the White House named Ralph Braun a “Champion of Change” for his dedication to improving the lives of people with physical disabilities.
Also last year, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association inducted Braun to its Hall of Fame.

A few years ago, Braun wrote an autobiography, titled “Rise Above: How One Man’s Search for Mobility Helped the World Get Moving.” He also formed The Ralph Braun Foundation, which helps people with limited income afford mobility equipment.

“While Ralph made a significant impact in the world of accessibility, he left an even greater imprint on mankind: the proof that, yes, you may be different from most people, but those differences are not limiting,” said Nick Gutwein, president of The Braun Corp. “In fact, those differences, combined with the drive to succeed, can lead to greatness.”

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

GRTC, reservation network co. partner for on-demand paratransit service

Customer benefits include direct, non-stop service; requesting a trip for same-day service; and flexibility to schedule a reservation up to 30 days in advance.

MBTA testing new tech to help blind find bus stops

The agency will install Bluetooth beacons on bus stop signs that can communicate via a smartphone app to tell users how close they are to the stop.

NY MTA adding mobile app to simplify paratransit travel

The upgrade comes amid a growing outcry from people with disabilities that they are being underserved.

BraunAbility's Q-Series wheelchair lift wins design award

The new lift combines an eye-catching curved design language with innovative use of geometry, resulting not only in a 10% weight reduction over its predecessor, but also a 300% improvement in rigidity.

Profile: Donna Smith, Sr. Director, Easter Seals Project Action Consulting

Donna Smith was 18 months old when doctors detected retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer, and removed her right eye. For the next 18 months, her mother took her on zoo trips and drilled her on all the colors before doctors took out her left eye, too.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close