Universal design

Accessible to all is better for everyone

Whenever possible, we design spaces that work well for people of all ages and abilities. We devise elegant solutions that aren’t compromises or retrofits. They’re simply functional and beautiful — for anyone — while introducing unnecessary obstacles for no one.

Our commitment to universal design isn’t just professional. It’s personal.

Shelter president, CEO and co-founder Jackie Millea built her career inspired by her father, who was confined to a wheelchair for more than 20 years. Watching him navigate a world full of barriers, Jackie recognized that there are better ways for spaces to accommodate — and uplift — all the people within them.

Our universal design approach can influence a building’s floor plan, entrances and counter heights. But we don’t stop there. We also pay close attention to finishes, furnishings and other details. Take lever-style door handles, for example. They may be necessary for homeowners who can’t grasp a round doorknob. But they’ll also assist others who, on occasion, must use their elbows to enter a room while carrying a baby in one arm and groceries in the other.

How we encourage inclusion in public and private spaces

We’re known for helping clients satisfy ADA requirements (even in challenging environments, such as historically designated buildings). Ramsey County, for example, asked us to develop a universal design guide for its Parks and Recreation department. Our work on this project helps the area’s precious public spaces serve all citizens.

We understand that many people want homes they can live in for as long as possible. That’s why our residential designs often include zero-threshold entrances, wide doorways, multi-height counters, open floor plans, and other elements that will benefit homeowners on the day they move in — and later in life, as well.

On public and commercial projects, we seek input from people whose interactions with a facility might not otherwise be accounted for in its design. This helps us devise solutions not only for people with mobility impairments, but also for those who may (due to age, disability, gender identity or other factors) require different accommodations to function — and flourish — within the space. For example: We consider lighting, acoustics and signage. Ensuring that people can see, hear, and move through a space as easily and safely as possible serves all who are present — no matter their age, needs or abilities.

Shelter co-founder Jackie Millea has also created Millea Living, a firm that produces shower/bath transfer benches, stability bars, and other daily living aids (DLAs) for the home. Based on her experience caring for her father, Jackie knows that most DLAs are designed purely for practical function. Millea Living offers an alternative: timeless, attractive furniture pieces featuring on-trend designs and a choice of finishes.