Nearly twenty years ago, Arizona parents Liz and Brad Soben were out with their family when they experienced a tragedy that totally changed their lives. A car accident left Liz paralyzed from the hips down.
Since then, she learned to adapt to using a wheelchair but not without some heartache along the way. The Sobens were a very active brood, taking frequent camping trips and hikes. It was during one of those trips that Liz broke down in tears because she couldn’t go with her family on a trek through the woods.
She told them to go without her. Her husband, feeling for his wife, decided not to accept these circumstances. Though Liz was mobile in an electric wheelchair, Brad wanted something better for her, so he tinkered away in his garage like a mad scientist to upgrade her wheelchair.
After two years, he had his first model. Called the Tankchair, the invention allows disabled users to navigate over snow, sand, and other tough terrain. Instead of wheels, it has treads that look similar to the ones found on tanks and bulldozers.
The first time Liz tried out her new chair was during a camping trip to a national forest. After several years of being limited, she was finally able to go on a hike with their daughters. It was her huge smile that motivated Brad to keep working at the prototype.
A decade or so later and without any training, Brad has gone on to create a business that builds chairs like Liz’s for others with disabilities. Tankchair has built custom designs for veterans, police officers, and other men and women who are confined to wheelchairs. Some of the chairs have special features like LED lights, pivot abilities, or text-to-speaker systems.
Because of their design, Tankchairs are meant to be used outdoors only, typically in rural environments. They can climb stairs and handle rocky paths. The powerful electric motor in the chair enables traction and movement on outdoor landscapes. However, Brad also developed other models which are suitable for indoor use.
Some Tankchair models are able to go 30 miles per hour and are capable of towing heavy objects. Additionally, he’s building the chairs to last. The rechargeable lithium batteries installed on them are supposed to be reliable for 15 -20 years.
That’s great news! As a small business, Tankchairs builds and delivers their chairs to clients by order only. They run anywhere from $15,000 on up and are built by hand. Insurance companies won’t cover the costs of the chair because they categorize it as an ATV. Eventually, Brad hopes to be able to donate chairs to veterans and other disabled people who are experiencing a hardship.
Watch the video below to learn more about Liz, Brad, and the Tankchair. If you have a loved one who’s paralyzed or has limited mobility with a wheelchair, then you understand Brad’s motivation. His invention was born from love and is changing lives beyond his own family’s.
What do you think of the Tankchair? Do you know someone who is a wheelchair user and would love one of these?