Across Canada, there’s a need for accessibility and inclusive design. Recognizing this need, Michael Reimer and Corey Vlaming seized the opportunity to build upon their experience and success in the construction industry. In 2020 they started a new Winnipeg-based company, Shift Accessibility Contractors Opens in a new window.. The company focuses on accessibility renovations for seniors and persons with disabilities.
For nearly a decade, Reimer worked as a paramedic in Manitoba until he resigned to focus full time on his construction company. After years in the construction industry, Reimer began to see the growing need for accessible renovations.
Reimer explains, “there was a clear need for someone who understood the wants and the needs of people with disabilities and older adults who really wanted to stay at home. There's a lack of people and companies that understand how accessible renovations need to be done. It’s allowed me to combine the best parts of being a paramedic with the building and design side of our construction company. It is extremely fulfilling. There's satisfaction in a job well-done, and not just for someone who wants something new and beautiful, but for something that allows someone to live in their own home safely and independently, which we may all take for granted.”
Shift Accessibility is unique as they employ a team that aims to understand the specific accessibility needs of each person they work with. Not only are their designs accessible, they’re also aesthetically pleasing. Shift Accessibility works closely with Enabling Access Inc. Opens in a new window. This company’s occupational therapists assess clients’ needs and helps designers understand them holistically.
Most recently, Shift Accessibility worked with a retired Winnipegger who had survived a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side. He and his family found it difficult to deal with the drastic change in his health and his lack of autonomy. Unable to stand or walk, he required regular homecare and help with everyday tasks.
Shift Accessibility was called in, along with a designer and an occupational therapist. Together they designed a bathroom that caters to left-side paralysis.
Reimer says the team “built a custom vanity that had all the storage on the right side where he could access everything. There was a sink and faucet set up that he could use with one hand and a shower where he could bathe on his own or with very little assistance, compared to before. It was great. He was excited about it and the family was really excited about it, and it turned out beautiful.”
The circumstances around accessibility renovations can raise many sensitivities. Reimer explains that this experience showed him “how important it was that we came in as a team with all the right experts and all the right people, and say, ‘hey, we got it. We're going to take it from here. You don't have to worry about it.’ This is crucial because during a time like this, the family has enough stress and the last thing they need to worry about is a stressful renovation project.”