Ralph Braun

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News April 2013

Mobility pioneer Ralph Braun leaves a significant legacy in the industry.

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A quiet revolution began in Indiana when, at age 6, Ralph Braun was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and learned he would lose his ability to walk. By 14, he was unable to walk and was discouraged.

As Braun grew older, he recognized a need for mobility and in 1963 invented the motorized scooter, filling orders from his parents’ garage.

Sadly, this mobility pioneer passed away earlier this year on Feb. 8. He leaves a significant legacy in the mobility industry — an industry he helped create based on his personal need for mobility products.

Ralph Braun's refusal to accept the status quo led him to become America's "Father of Mobility." He passed away in February 2013.

Braun’s commitment to the disability community began with the scooter. He had difficulty navigating Indiana State University’s campus and dropped out after just one semester. He knew there had to be a better way to get around than using the heavy wheelchair model available then, so he sought a solution. The Tri-Wheeler, the power scooter he created in his cousin’s farm workshop, gave him the freedom of mobility he sought.

As his mobility increased, so did attention from the disability community. What started as a part-time business filling orders from his parents’ garage evolved into Save-A-Step Manufacturing.

Braun adapted to the times and his changing mobility, next installing hand controls and a hydraulic lift on an old Jeep so he had better transportation to work. A few years later, when Dodge introduced the first full-sized, front-engine van, he devised a way to install a wheelchair lift.

Braun’s solution to his own mobility needs eventually led to a worldwide corporation. The launch of the minivan helped cement Braun’s revolution of the entire mobility industry.

“When I was developing this business, I had two strikes against me,” Braun said. “I was young, and I was what everyone calls ‘disabled.’ But I never let that hold me back.”

His leadership helped The Braun Corporation grow from just three part-time employees in 1969 to more than 800. In 2006, the company’s brand name changed to BraunAbility.

In early 2010, Braun released a memoir, Rise Above, which describes his personal and professional story. In sharing his memoir, he hoped to teach others about the importance of strong values, while increasing awareness and keeping mobility in the public eye. He then created The Ralph Braun Foundation to help people with limited incomes purchase mobility equipment.

Due to his contributions to the automotive mobility industry, Braun was inducted into the inaugural National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association Hall of Fame in 2012 and was recognized as Employer of the Year by Indiana’s Commission for the Handicapped and the Indiana State Board of Health. Also that year, The White House named him a “Champion of Change.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to The Ralph Braun Foundation, P.O. Box 310, Winamac, IN 46996. 


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