Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on December 19th, 2017
Ralph Braun: Who revolutionized mobility for disabled people.

Ralph Braun
Ralph Braun
Photo: scottdrotar.com

Born with Muscular Dystrophy in 1940, Ralph refused to accept being a shut-in, a helpless invalid as he would have been viewed at the time.

Instead, he brought himself and millions of other disabled people into the mainstream of society.

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When Ralph was just 6-years-old, doctors diagnosed his Muscular Dystrophy and told his parents he would live at most, into his teens.

They advised them to leave him in the hospital with people who could care for him, and told them he would be used for medical research.

But his parents rejected this advice and brought him home.

Eventually, when Ralph needed a wheelchair, he discovered most buses, schools, stores, hotels, office buildings, restrooms and sidewalks were not wheelchair accessible.

When Ralph’s high school was rebuilt, the school board refused to pay for an elevator that would have helped Ralph, and countless other people.

This is how it was for disabled people in the U.S. prior to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

But unlike most disabled people of the time, Ralph graduated from high school, although three years late, and subsequently got a job.

He was hired because of his self-taught technical skills, for in his parent’s garage, with spare or self-created parts, Ralph built the first 3-wheel motor scooter wheelchair.

This motor scooter was a revolutionary development allowing him and later, many other disabled people to go to any nearby place, including to work.

But when his employer moved two miles farther away, Ralph knew he had to drive. He bought an old post office truck and created the first hydraulic wheelchair lift.

Ralph built the first wheelchair lift and installed it in an old postal Jeep.
Ralph built the first wheelchair lift and installed it in an old postal Jeep.
Photo: scottdrotar.com

He also removed the driver’s seat for wheelchair access and installed hand controls. Ralph drove this truck to work and every other place he wanted to go.

Up to this point, few disabled people envisioned themselves ever driving a vehicle, but Ralph had now made this possible.

And the best was yet to come.

In another revolutionary first, in 1970 Ralph converted a Dodge Van into a wheelchair accessible vehicle for himself.

Soon many disabled people ordered wheelchair converted Vans or conversion kits from Ralph.

And in the 1980’s Ralph did the same with Minivans, which offered a much more comfortable ride and easier wheelchair accessibility.

The result is his company, The Braun Corporation with its “BrawnAbility” products has grown from a tiny firm into an 1,100 person global leader in wheelchair accessible vehicles and wheelchair lifts.

And it was begun by a disabled person with a brief life expectancy, who ultimately lived to be 72, and accomplished his dreams for himself and for millions of others.

Editor's Note: To learn more about Ralph, please see a 3-minute, 27-second video from CNN or a 6-minute video, here. To visit the Braun website https://www.braunability.com/

Thank you to Megan Wegner of Braun, in helping us tell his story. To see her answers to my questions, please click here. I also strongly recommend his book, “Rise Above,” in which Ralph shares many fascinating stories about his life.

In the next KazanToday: A man pledged to commit a million acts of kindness.


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