Wheeled mobility or wheelchair use is at an all-time high and growing in the US. Approximately 3.3 million Americans (1.4% of the population) use wheelchairs, and that stat doesn’t include people in institutions like nursing homes. The growth in wheelchair use results from many factors–but leading the way are advances in trauma treatments leading to higher survival rates and the rapid expansion of the elderly population as the baby boomer generation ages. But what happens when you have to go further than the chair will take you? Some of the biggest technological advances in wheeled mobility lately have been the wheelchair accessible vehicles and platform lifts that allow users to easily and safely get in and out of vehicles. These advances make it possible for some wheelchair users to drive themselves–and they contribute vastly to the autonomy and quality of life of almost every wheelchair user.
The Braun Corporation, also known as BraunAbility, is the premier wheelchair lift and wheelchair vehicle manufacturer in the US. In October 2013, Braun rolled out a fleet of Nissan NV200 minivan “BraunTaxis,” which quickly became the vehicle of choice for wheelchair transport. (Coincidentally, the minivan and the Americans with Disabilities Act were born around the same time–and they’ve worked well together.) Yet of the 14,000 taxis in New York City, fewer than 700 are currently wheelchair accessible. (There are 90,000 wheelchair users across New York City.) Just last month, the Taxi and Limousine Commission unanimously approved a 30-cent surcharge to every taxi fare, beginning in January 2015, to fund upgrades that will make half of the taxi fleet wheel-chair accessible. A lot of that money may end up at BraunAbility.