The Innovation Institute provides unique services in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and probably in the whole USA. It was founded in 2003 in Duncanville, Texas, by Harrold Andresen. He has helped people with disabilities all his life, and learned of their many difficult struggles as they have come to his auto shop for vehicle repairs for over 30 years. They have a lot more equipment needing repairs than most people, and a lot less money. They are also very inventive, constantly trying to solve their own problems. He wanted to serve them in a more comprehensive way, and he began by helping them repair and improve their mechanical devices. Each job required Harrold's engineering and fabricating skills, his shop equipment, and some little piece from his inventory of parts and materials.
In 2003, Andresen remodeled 6,000 square feet of his automotive shop into a fully equipped wheelchair-friendly fabrication shop. He also received 501(c)3 status for his non-profit. The Innovation Institute is now a place where "wheelers" are employed to design and build practical assistive devices and use them in the service of others.
Deeply satisfying dynamics keep our disabled employees fully engaged. "Unemployable" elsewhere, they earn money at the Institute. Not cooped up in front of a computer screen, they do physical work—using fabrication machinery from their wheelchairs. Our craftsmen's disabilities are not a liability, but an asset—as they help design, build, and test the assistive devices. It feels good to be in a position to give to others. They feel better mentally and physically. Unique and powerful factors combine to make this project beneficial to the health, hope, and happiness of the people we serve, including:
We transport our wheelchair-friendly vehicles to outdoor events and give rides to others with disabilities, especially to children with physical or developmental differences. The children are delighted to ride with drivers who, like themselves, have disabilities. They enjoy a special connection and common bonding as they interact with each other. Then it is back to the shop to do maintenance and repairs on our existing vehicles and to continue building new and improved ones.