A feeling of shellacking occurs when one finds out the truth that one is not like the others around him/her. The tornado of melancholy circulates and the dreams fall apart. The same feeling arose within the late founder of Braun Corporation when Ralph W. Braun was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of six. Braun Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of wheel-chair and accessible vehicles.”
Ralph William Braun also recognized as the “Father of the Mobility Science” was born on December 18, 1940. Born and raised in Winamac, Indiana, Ralph Braun was always true-blue towards his commitment to work and improve. When doctors announced about his disability, his parents were devastated to hear the news but they never felt their son as an incapacitated person. Their continuous support and encouragement led Braun to initiate his inventions further.
After some years, Ralph Braun became unable to walk and at the age of 14, he started using a wheelchair. A young boy who termed his disability as God-given ability used his creative mastermind to create a motorized wagon along with his father with a motive of easy usage and mobility. His curious and creative nature didn’t accept the ending Full Stop which resulted in more modifications and inventions. As a result, 5 years later, he created a motorized scooter by gathering different equipment from his cousin’s farm and named it a Tri-wheeler. He used this Tri-wheeler when he used to work in a nearby factory as a Quality Control Inspector. The creation of Tri-wheeler aided in the foundation of a manufacturing industry Save-A-Step which was later named Braun Corporation in 1972.
Ralph W. Braun was always against making any excuses for himself. He believed one has to always move forward in the ways of challenges and crossroads. When he started the Save-A-Step industry in 1963 to supply motorized scooters, he wanted to build more accessible vehicles that could help people with disabilities to go anywhere. When his factory where he used to work before, moved miles from his home, he accoutred an old postal Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic lift for safe and secure transportation to the workplace that could work in any weather conditions.
“So what’s the secret to your success?” This question was asked frequently to Ralph W. Braun and he always replied, “I always surround myself with good people.” His reply was the reason behind a significant legacy in the mobility industry. When Ralph Braun made Lift-A-Way in 1970 which was created by retrofitting a Dodge van with a lift, the word about his invention was spread across different corners. His initiation with the team was responsible for the possibility of revolution of consumer mobility that public transportation was outfitted with wheelchair lifts making facile for people with disabilities.
Improving oneself and team along with learning new things has always been the passion of Ralph Braun. He never gave a second thought to learning new things. In 2006, the Braun Corporation adopted the name Braunability as a brand name. When he was in his 50s, he was holding the position of CEO at Braun Corporation but he was enfeebled at public speaking. He then decided to be a student amongst college teenagers and he succeeded. He was even voted by classes as one of two contenders for their end-of-year speech.
Ralph Braun was a true pioneer of accessibility. He was so determined that he used to evaluate every individual need of the customers. 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. He was also honored with the Support of the Guard and Reserves Patriot Award for his support of his employees who serve in the military. “Rise Above”, an autobiography of Ralph W. Braun, written by himself inspires everyone where he had stated about the challenges and roadblock and a strong desire to stand among the odds.
Entitled as “Champion of Change” by the former president, Barack Obama, Ralph Braun accredited his father for the support and courage his father bestowed on him. Starting his career in 1996 as the creator of the first wheelchair accessible van with hand controls, he turned his innovations into a massive business with $200 million in annual sales. After being involved as a part-time or full-time employee, facing lots of challenges, Braun set upon making the installing-lifts and conversion vans. With his engineering skills and passionate dedication, he plunged to self-employment from a part-time employee of an automobile company providing job opportunities to a large number of people and changing the lives of people like him.
Ralph Braun proved that disability is not a curse but it’s a challenge that drives us to be a person of distinct character giving the world a new thing that the rest of the world has never imagined before.