Brad Soden and his wife Liz are an outdoorsy pair. Since they first met, they spent nearly every weekend camping, hiking and exploring the terrain on their 4 x 4. They even got their 5 children involved, making their deep love of the outdoors a family affair. But when a car accident in 1999 left Liz paralyzed from the waist down, she thought she would never be able to enjoy the outdoors like she had again. That was until her husband built the Tankchair. And yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.
The Tankchair is a wheelchair that can take on anything Mother Nature throws at it — seriously. Mud? No problem. Snow? Piece of cake! Rocky terrain, sand, creeks? PLEASE. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below.
I think we can all agree the Tankchair itself is pretty boss. But the best part of the story is how the Tankchair came to be. Here’s the story from Brad Soden (via Tankchair.com):
The idea of Tankchair first started on a family camping trip in 2001. My wife had just started to be able to move freely after the accident. Like all people that try and cope with the devastating injury of a loved one, I tried to keep life as “normal” as possible. We have always been an outdoors sort of family. Going camping, fishing, stargazing in the desert, or just having a big campfire at night with a bunch of friends.
I woke up one morning and watched in amazement as a herd of wild elk came through our campground. A huge buck with a full rack just watched me as his cows walked by. I got so excited and wanted to share this experience with the entire family. I got my 5 kids up, waking them quickly, but quietly. I got my wife in her wheelchair and we started to follow the herd. As you can imagine, the wheelchair that was assigned to her by the HMO wasn’t built to go through a mountainside with other people. The family was watching the herd slowly walk away. My wife, one of the sweetest and most unselfish person who I have ever met in my life, told the family to go on without her. She said this with tears in her eyes.
I got so mad at the situation. It was not right in my mind that someone could not enjoy things because of a disability that was not her fault. The problem wasn’t the desire; the problem was that we had the wrong tools.
When Brad returned from the trip, he began experimenting with ways to allow his wife to get back to what she loved. A plumbing contractor, he had no engineering degree — but what he DID have was a determination that would not quit. After many trials and failures, Brad finally developed a working prototype, which he took to NPC Robotics to take it to the next level. He couldn’t wait to share it with Liz.
Our first trip with Tankchair was to the Kaibab National Forest at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We drove out to an area where there was lots of trees and you go to the edge of the cliffs and look down at one of the 7 greatest wonders of the world. To me, the 8th greatest wonder was when my wife got in her Tankchair and got to go for a “hike” with our 2 daughters in the woods while myself and the 3 boys gathered wood for the campfire.
The 10 million jumbo watt smile she had on her face when she came back from her hike was worth every minute I spent in the garage putting it together. Any of us that have had a loved one that was able to conquer a situation from their disability, and the look of sheer joy and pride on their face will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Brad and Liz prove once again that some of the greatest innovations in accessibility come from people living with disabilities coming up with their own solutions. The Tankchair is available for purchase, but it’s pretty pricey. To learn more about the Tankchair, as well as Liz and Brad, visit Tankchair.com.
We want to hear from you! What do you think of the Tankchair? Would you try it?