Ralph Braun 1940-2013, Founder of The Braun Corporation & BraunAbility

This is a wonderful article about Ralph Braun who will be missed by many who knew him and many more who did not! I drive a Pontiac Montana EnterVan manufactured by his company that highly impacts my life. When Broadened Horizons was just getting started, we set up one of his employees with a Vocalize Wheelchair Bluetooth Cell Phone Voice Control System to stay in touch while cruising around the office. Later in life, I had the pleasure of serving him as a Broadened Horizons customer and user of our VoiceIR Environmental Voice Controls and since he was a fellow aviation enthusiast and had recently purchased his own 2 seat small sport aircraft, we had a few Skype conversations from his Florida retirement home discussing the Sky Chariot.  Without ever having met face-to-face, it is amazing how closely we are all connected in this life.   Blue Skies Ralph! Now you no longer need someone else to pilot your aircraft! Fly Free!     -Mark Felling, President Broadened Horizons

Written by carolyn on February 19, 2013

ralph4Ralph William Braun, founder and CEO of The Braun Corporation, passed away Friday, February 8th in Winamac, Indiana. He was 72 years old.

Ralph leaves behind a significant legacy in the mobility industry – an industry that he helped create based on his personal need for mobility products.

In 1947, Ralph was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at just six years of age. Ralph credits his parents with instilling in him the will to overcome the challenges his disability presented him – as well as any other obstacles life put in his path. When he could no longer rely on his own two legs and he’d outgrown piggyback rides from his dad, he began using a wheelchair. While he didn’t welcome the mobility aid, the 13-year-old never let it slow him down. Ralph wanted an education, a career and a family, just like anyone else; he just had to work a little harder at it.

The first mobility product he engineered was a motorized scooter, which he called the Tri-Wheeler. The scooter allowed him to conserve energy and keep his job as a Quality Control Inspector at a nearby factory. As his mobility increased, so did the attention from the disabled community. What started as a part-time business filling orders for Tri-Wheelers from his parents’ garage evolved into Save-A-Step Manufacturing.

When the factory where Ralph worked moved a few miles from his home, he outfitted an old postal Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic lift so he could have reliable transportation to and from work no matter the weather. Just a few years later when Dodge introduced the first full-sized, front-engine van, he devised a way to install a wheelchair lift that would revolutionize the mobility industry. For the first time, individuals with disabilities had a way to travel on the road from their wheelchairs.

The Braun Corporation was incorporated in 1972, and for much of the remainder of that decade and the next, Braun’s product line was built on the wheelchair lift. Not only did this product revolutionize consumer mobility, but it forever changed public transportation as well. 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. The commercial lift industry, as well as the paratransit business, continues to thrive in the domestic and international markets.

By the time the lowered floor minivan was introduced in the late 1980s, Americans were experiencing a level of mobility that had never before existed. Other manufacturers offered mobility products, but what set The Braun Corporation apart was Ralph’s focus on providing mobility solutions to meet the individual needs of each customer.  He created a network of dealers across the country to evaluate an individual’s needs and circumstances to find the best mobility option for him or her. Today the company offers wheelchair accessible conversions on the Dodge/Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda minivans, as well as multiple lift platforms and additional mobility products to fit the needs of customers with every need and level of disability.

The Braun Corporation marked its 40th anniversary in 2012. Throughout the company’s existence, Ralph kept his headquarters based in his hometown of Winamac, Indiana (population 2500). Nearly 850 individuals are employed by the company.

Braun has been recognized for his work in the industry, including the “Champion of Change” honor by the White House in 2012 for his dedication to improving the lives of individuals with physical disabilities. He was inducted into the NMEDA Hall of Fame in 2012 and was recognized as Employer of the Year by the Commission for the Handicapped and the Indiana State Board of Health. Just a week before his passing, Ralph was also honored with the Support of the Guard and Reserves Patriot Award for his support of his employees who serve in the military.

Ralph has left a permanent legacy in the mobility community and will be remembered as a true pioneer of accessibility. He wrote his autobiography, Rise Above, to tell the story of the challenges he faced as a young man – not only from his health, but from the limitations society placed on individuals with disabilities as well. In the book he announced the formation of The Ralph Braun Foundation, which would help those with limited income afford the mobility equipment they need.

Ralph Braun is regarded as a true pioneer of an industry that has brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of individuals across the world. The Braun legacy of quality and dedication will continue in the name of its pioneering father.

If you would like to be a part of helping to further the mission of The Ralph Braun Foundation your donations can be sent to The Ralph Braun Foundation, P.O. Box 310, Winamac, IN 46996.

Posted in 2013

Maple Grove father could be 2012’s ‘Best Dad on Wheels’

  • Steve is national finalist with the Christopher and Dana Reeve’s foundation and lives just down the road from me here in Maple Grove.  A great guy and well deserving.  I wanted to share this story as an example of “possibilities”.  be sure to vote for Steve!  – Mark
  • Vote for 2012 Best Dad on Wheels

Posted MyFox9News: Jun 13, 2012 10:37 PM CDT Updated: Jun 14, 2012 7:38 AM CDT By Bill Keller

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (KMSP) -Just in time for Father’s Day, a Maple Grove dad to three is getting a special honor by being named a national finalist for father of the year — but it’s no ordinary award. The paraplegic man is hoping to be dubbed the “Best Dad on Wheels.”At 21 years old, Steve Laux drove into Lake Superior and fractured his spine just above his shoulders. Now, he is not only a successful marketing executive, but he is also working to help others with disabilities.

Still, if you ask his family and friends what his greatest achievement is, they will say it’s helping to raise his three children — 3-year-old McKenzie and 11-month old twins, Dakota and Devin.

“The biggest challenge is being able to pick up the child like I would want to,” Laux said.

He doesn’t let that stop him, however.

“I look at parenting with a disability just the same as life with a disability — and it’s just coming up with creative solutions to be good at something,” Laux explained. “I take it as a challenge and enjoy ever aspect of fathering.”

According to Laux, his kids aren’t really aware that he’s in a wheelchair — possibly because they’re too busy using him as a jungle gym. In fact, his oldest only just realized he couldn’t use his legs.

Laux met his wife, Chau, when the two were volunteers at the Courage Center.

“It’s just his positive attitude that won me over — and, of course, his good looks,” she told FOX 9 News.

While the kids can be a handful for Chau, the girls only seem to give Laux more energy.

“Keeping up with my kids is the first thing,” Laux said.

That’s why Laux’s friend nominated him for the title of “Best Dad on Wheels.”

“Just being around him and seeing his interactions and love for his children — why not?” asked Kurt Wiger. “He’s very driven. Whatever he says he’s going to do, he’s going to do at full speed — and with being a dad, he’s just a great dad.”

Last weekend, Laux was named a top 10 finalist by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Now, the Laux family and their friends are getting the vote out through Facebook and e-mail, letting everyone know that voting will be open through Father’s Day.

Online Resource:

Read more: http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/18783848/is-minnesota-father-2012s-best-dad-on-wheels#ixzz1xoKGdaMD

Cityzen: Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll courtesy C5 Quad & frontman Tobias Forrest

Change YOUR world and you will change THE world.  The rest will fall into place.

I discovered the up-and-coming cerebral metal band, Cityzen who will be performing March 30 for “Hard Rock Rising”, a global battle of the bands at the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood. These guys are good just check out “Restless” and the videos on their website. Researching them, I came across this great article on New Mobility about the up-and-coming cerebral metal band, Cityzen and their front man Toby Forest who happens to be a C5 quad.  I loved this quote and what it says about his perspectives, similar to my own:

Tobias Forest, frontman of the band Cityzen
Tobias Forest, frontman of the band Cityzen

“I’m hungry to do more. I love entertainment, I’m not here to show the world people with disabilities, I’m here to show people with disabilities the world. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you can and cannot move. If you are creative, you have the right to share what you create.”

There was also a hidden message in this article, one I think many of our customers and wheelchair users need to hear as often as possible.  Dating and relationships, or just hanging out and having fun with the opposite sex can seem daunting or even nearly impossible.  But only if you believe it is.  As a wheelchair user or someone with a disability, dating or not dating is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you believe your unapproachable that bit of your subconscious comes through to others so plainly.  State of mind is not a momentary decision, it involves years of practice.  Get out there and do something.  Change YOUR world and you will change THE world.  The rest will fall into place.  – Mark

Once or twice a week Cityzen lifts Toby up on some of the very same stages that launched the Eagles, the Doors, Guns ‘N Roses, the Wallflowers, System of a Down, and many more. They run through a 30-minute set, including most the tunes on the CD and one that’s not, the picked-to-pop house-rocker, “Drunk Hollywood White Girls.”

Live at the Roxy in Hollywood.
Live at the Roxy in Hollywood. (Photo by Dustin Engelskind)

“DHWG” is about unrestrained young women confronting the cute guy in the wheelchair. “Before, it was easy, or at least easier with women,” says Toby. “In the wheelchair, no matter how charming or good-looking you are, there’s always a barrier. But drunk girls, they love me. Part of it is that I’m a place to sit, an open invitation for them to sit on me. Then they want to push my chair around and run over people’s toes.” So he wrote the lyrics and worked up the song with Jeff. “It’s definitely a fan favorite. We see it as a novelty song, more of a live song, and didn’t include it on the CD. Funny thing is how many girls will come up after and say, ‘Oh, that song was about me.’ Well, girl, it’s not a compliment, you know?”
Photos by Christopher Voelker / Voelkerstudio.com

Photos by Christopher Voelker / Voelkerstudio.com

The first thing you’ll probably want to know about Tobias Forrest is where he was raised, whether his childhood was really lousy, how he broke his neck and all that what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger kind of crap. There’s a lot of that. But first, some random coincidences: …

Read the rest of Cityzen Toby By Sam Maddox at NewMobility.com

Planning your world tour? Don’t leave home without the Comfort Carrier! 
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