One of Jerry’s Girls

helter co-founder and partner, Jackie Millea, shares what ‘design for all’ means to her:

In 1988 my father, then 47, had a major stroke that left him a quadriplegic. All of his mental abilities still functioned, but he could only use one finger. He spent a year at Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota, doing therapy and learning how to adapt to this situation. Our family learned what it would mean to care for him. When it was time for him to be released from Mayo, there was no question that he was coming home. Who puts a 48 year old in a nursing home?

Luckily my parents lived in a split foyer home with a walk-out basement so we only needed to add a sidewalk to get my father into the house. Then they added a roll-in shower. That was about the extent of major home modifications that had to be done at first. Each home health care worker brought their expertise to the situation and offered new ideas for products and therapies that would improve his day to day life.  We outfitted the house with these products as needed.

Most of his time was spent in a hospital style bed. People would occasionally visit him, but for the most part his life was my mother and his daughters and his caregivers. I would imagine that it was lonely for a gregarious salesman like him. He was a clever person and thought that if he could create a sling for his arm, he would be able to get enough momentum at his shoulder to type with his finger on a keyboard. His Apple computer became his outlet to the world.

It transformed his life. He was able to email, read articles, and eventually Facebook with people. We were all grateful that we lived in an age of technology.

Over 25 years, my parents would eventually move 2 times to better-suited homes for accessible living. They added more and more assistive devices to the house to aid him in his day to day life and to keep my mother and the caregivers safe. He passed away in 2012 after teaching me what it means to create environments that help everyone live more fully, safely, and happily in their homes no matter their age or ability.