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-- Featuring the Founder of Ability Center --

Experience Counts

By Clive Soden


Darrell Heath
President, Ability Center

There are probably not too many people more qualified to run a mobility company than Darrell Heath.  Before starting his own company in 1994, Darrell worked 17 years as a machinist, assembler and installer for a mobility equipment manufacturer.  “I started working part time for the company when I was 15,” Darrell said.  “I was an auto mechanic by trade.”  Now he is President of Ability Center - the West Coast’s largest company that sells and services vehicles, wheelchairs and equipment for people with disabilities. 

Ability Center quickly grew under Darrell’s leadership.  In just a couple of years after he started his new company, Entrepreneur Magazine/Dun & Bradstreet, in 1997, listed Ability Center as the 41st fastest growing privately-owned small business in the United States.  Today Ability Center has 55 employees with stores in San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orange County, California.

For Darrell, the mechanic side of the business is easy but he realizes that the business side of running Ability Center will always be challenging – especially with today’s innovations in assistive technology and mobility systems.  “The business end of it is a continuous learning process because the industry is changing so rapidly,” Darrell said.  “There are new obstacles to be overcome every day.” 

Apparently, the challenge is one of the reasons Darrell decided to start Ability Center.  It was formed when Darrell purchased the retail division from his previous employer, MPS Corporation.  “It was the next step in my personal evolution,” Darrell said, “and I had done everything I could have done at MPS.”  However, his years at MPS have proved invaluable to Darrell in his own business.  He not only learned his mechanic’s trade but also received inspiration from his boss, George Hendrickson.  “George was a paraplegic and was in a wheelchair,” Darrell said, “he was a very generous man and took care of the community. He taught me a lot of valuable lessons and I try to carry on the legacy.”

Lift-Up Seat
from Ability Center

Darrell does indeed carry on the legacy of giving back to the community.  For example, Ability Center recently donated an accessible van to a family who lost their’s in Hurricane Katrina.  The company also donates to other worthy causes such as the Brain Injury Foundation and sponsors athletic programs for children with disabilities.  In addition, the Ability Center staff members actively participate in their local Paralyzed Veterans of America, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association and a variety of wheelchair sporting events. 

When talking to Darrell, you can tell that he enjoys what he’s doing.  “It changes daily,” he said, “it’s never the same routine every day.”  Darrell also enjoys seeing employees move up in

responsibility.  “We have many employees who have stepped up to the plate and added value to the company,” Darrell said.  “Many of them started out working in the shop like myself.  It’s not too often you see people who came from turning a wrench to helping run the company.”

His customers also add to Darrell’s job satisfaction.  “It’s a great feeling to see customers regain their freedom and independence.” Darrell said.  “Our products let them get back to driving and being mobile – not stuck in the house all day.”  Many customers know Darrell from his days at MPS and he continues to stay in touch with them.  “I recently talked to one of my long-time clients whose son is now 24 years old,” Darrell said.  “When we first met, her son was around 10.”

Mini Van from Ability Center

Full-Size Van from Ability Center

Customer service is key to Ability Center’s success and this has paid off in customer loyalty and satisfaction.  “We found a rare company, one that actually believes in and practices customer service,” said customer Patty A.  Another customer, Jo D, said, "My Toyota Rampvan is great and the service I get at the Ability Center is wonderful."

Ability Center offers a full line of products for people with disabilities including: mobility vans, wheelchair vans, mobility equipment, wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, mobility scooters, lifts and ramps.  For additional information on products and services provided by Ability Center, visit their Web site at www.abilitycenter.com.


Clive Soden is a writer and Web developer. His Web site is: www.clivesoden.com.


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