BraunAbility® Wheelchair Vehicles & Lifts

BraunAbility logo: Classic Vans Mobility & Wheelchair Vans article

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Personal mobility is a huge factor in the quality of you or your loved one’s life. Having a wheelchair van you are comfortable with can help increase day-to-day independence and sense of wellness. Finding an adequate wheelchair lift that best suits your specific needs can make a whole world of difference entering and exiting your vehicle.

For over 40 years, BraunAbility® has dedicated themselves to building handicap vans and lifts that are geared at changing the lives of their disabled passengers for the better. BraunAbility partners with businesses and organizations such as NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association), CONQUER Paralysis Now, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Life Rolls On to deliver the highest in quality mobility van conversions and equipment.

History of BraunAbility

A testament to the heart and soul that go into the BraunAbility name and products is the story of Ralph Braun, the founder of the mobility company. At the age of 15, Braun was unable to walk due to spinal muscular atrophy. After becoming tired of being carried in and out of vehicles and pushed in a manual chair, the young man became determined to find a way to gain more independence for him and others.

In 1962, Ralph built his first motorized wheelchair in his cousin’s farm tool shed. In 1963, in his parent’s garage, Ralph built his first Tri-wheeler, which became the first prototype for motorized wheelchair manufacturing. He called his company “Save-A-Step Manufacturing.” Little did Braun know this prototype would become an entire industry of motorized wheelchairs.

Three years later in 1966, Ralph took an old postal Jeep and built the first ever wheelchair lift – the precursor to the Lift-A-Way product that would become the first lift for full-sized vans. In 1972, Save-A-Step Manufacturing was renamed Braun Corporation, with just five employees.

By 1975 the Braun Corporation had expanded, opening up a fully functioning production plant in Illinois. Less than ten years later, in 1984, the Braun Corporation produced the Swing-A-Way lift. The Swing-A-Way lift had a unique design that allowed users to board the van at a parallel angle. The unique design of the Swing-A-Way made it easier to board in tight parking spaces – the wheelchair passenger only needed as much space as the door to fully open.

In 1991, the Braun Entervan was introduced. The Entervan revolutionized the wheelchair lift industry by becoming the first side entry mobility van. In 2013, Ralph Braun passed away at the age of 72, but his legacy and commitment to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities through the BraunAbility Company continues on.

Today, BraunAbility products are available worldwide and a carry the most trusted name in mobility vans and products.

BraunAbility Products

BraunAbility offers the following types of mobility lifts and vans:

Rear Entry Vans

In rear entry vans the wheelchair user enters from the rear of the vehicle to the 2nd row. Since the rear of the vehicle is naturally slightly elevated, there is plenty of ground clearance for the wheelchair. Rear entry lifts are typically less expensive than side entry lifts. If you use a parking garage that is too narrow for a side entry van or the area you live in lacks handicap spaces, a rear entry might be the best bet for you.

Side Entry Vans

Side entry vans may cost a little bit more than rear entry vans; however, they offer more space and maneuverability. Some pluses to owning a side entry van are

  • They maintain their rear storage area
  • Wheelchair users can typically drive or ride in the first row position
  • Wheelchair users can also ride securely in the 2nd row position

Further reading: Side-Entry vs. Rear-Entry Mobility Access: Which Wheelchair Van Option is Right for You?

Foldout Ramps

A foldout ramp allows you to drive next to a curb and deploy a ramp over the curb for easy entry and exit. The upright storage of the foldout ramp results in less debris and fewer maintenance issues.

In-Floor Ramps

In-floor ramps are completely concealed. These are more convenient, especially for those not riding in a wheelchair. There is no need to deploy the ramp each time. Keep in mind, deploying in-floor ramps on high curbs can be a problem. Also, in-floor ramps may require more maintenance because the ramp tends to collect more debris.

Further reading: In-Floor vs. Fold-Out Ramps in Mobility Vans

Power Ramps vs. Manual Ramps

Power ramps: Power ramps are convenient since the door and ramp are both operated with the touch of a button, much like keyless entry. Power ramps are available on both side-entry and rear-entry vans. These ramps aid a caretaker or companion by eliminating the heavy and painful deployment of a manual ramp.
Manual ramps: Manual ramps are often more cost effective than power ramps. These typically only work for those traveling with a companion or caretaker who can fold up and deploy the ramp for the wheelchair user.

Standard Height and Extra Tall (XT) Height Vans

Standard Height: For smaller or more average sized wheelchair users, a standard height van should be just fine. These vans typically offer 52” to 55” of headroom at the ramp entrance doorway. BraunAbility offers conversions in both Standard and Extra Tall (XT) height vans.
Extra Tall (XT): Due to some individuals sitting taller in their wheelchairs, an extra tall (XT) van may be a better option. These offer greater visibility and typically a more comfortable ride with over 55” of headroom.

If you are seeking a wheelchair conversion van, Classic Vans offers a variety of mobility vehicles such as Braun Conversions. Located in the San Francisco Bay area, Classic Vans has been pairing customers with reliable, high quality and well-fitted mobility vans, conversion vans and class B motorhomes for 30 years.