PHOENIX — A Phoenix veteran has set out to make the world a bigger place for people who have lost use of their legs.
The idea to create the “Tankchair” came to Brad Soden after his wife, Liz, was paralyzed in an accident, leaving her wheelchair-bound and often restricted to sidewalks or other flat surfaces outside of the home.
“We loved to camp and on a planned trip, she said she would stay behind because the chair would not be adequate for an outdoor trip,” he said. “I needed to do something.”
Without any formal education, Soden set up shop inside his garage and created the first Tankchair, an all-terrain chair equipped with tracks instead of wheels so the driver can maneuver in any type of terrain, including areas with low water levels and snow.
Soden originally tried creating an off-road golf cart or disabled-friendly ATV. While both worked, they would not be permitted at a majority of campgrounds because of noise or fossil fuel restrictions.
He said his father-in-law gave him the idea for the Tankchair when he asked him, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could put tracks on that like a tank?” Soden put his military experience as an infantryman who worked on and rode in tracked vehicles to use and, after a lot of trial and error and some help from NPC Robotics, built the first Tankchair for Liz.
Soden said he’ll never forget the look on Liz’s face when she first used the chair at the Grand Canyon.
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.
Soden is now focused on producing more chairs for disabled people, especially combat veterans.
“It’s given me freedom,” said Ryan Price, an Afghanistan combat veteran who lost both of his legs.
“Being in a wheelchair makes you feel so feeble,” he said. “You look at what you can do based on the sidewalks and accessibility. I can go anywhere and do anything now.”
KTAR’s Sandra Haros contributed to this report.