If you or a loved one are reaching the point in life where either a move or upgrades to a current home is necessary, working with an accessibility specialist can be like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Maybe you or someone you know would like to be more independent but are having difficulty maneuvering the barriers found in most homes. Narrow doorways, stairs and steps, standard bathtubs, slippery floors are all common barriers to safety that most people struggle with as they get older. An accessibility specialist can help with these issue. These professionals deal with all of the aspects of home remodels in order to allow those who are aging but don’t want to move away from their home, or those with disabilities but who want to maintain their independent living conditions succeed in their desires. Although there are a large number of independent and assisted living facilities available in most areas, an overwhelming number of people would prefer to spend the golden years of their lives in the home where their children may have grown up, or where they’ve created decades of good memories and connections.
If you do need some help, who should you call? What type of training should an accessibility specialist have? There are only a few programs that offer specialty training in designing and remodeling home environments so as to help those who choose, remain in their homes safely and comfortably. There is more to this than meets the eye and these specialists have learned to look not just at a specific environment but also the people who will be living there. This is precisely what differentiates an accessibility specialist from a contractor - their ability to link specific ailments with specific solutions and to project long term changes as one ages that might affect ones safety and independence within a home environment. Keep in mind that even simple things like grab bars should be installed based on an individual's physical condition.
The National Association of Home Builders offers a short course known as the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), designed to train contractors in the technical and business management side of renovations as well as the customer service skills which are needed for these types of transaction.
The University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers an online course in Home Modifications, dedicated to promoting aging in place and independent living for persons of all ages and abilities. This five week program covers home assessments and safety checklists, construction techniques, funding resources, and also includes required coursework in the ethics of dealing with a vulnerable population. After successful completion, the Program grants an Executive Certificate in Home Modification (ECHM).
What can you expect once you’ve located a trained accessibility specialist? The Specialist will meet with you in your home to help define your needs, and then complete a full written assessment that includes suggestions for improving safety and comfort. Recommended changes will vary widely from home to home, based not only on home layout but also on each individuals physical requirements as well as budget realities. Afterwards, you will be shown some plans and/or be given written suggestions to suit both your short term and long term needs. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you may be offered a floor plan which will help you to visualize the concept in the way that it will appear once complete. The suggestions can include every aspect of your home living, both inside and out. For example, a ramp leading up to your home will help with stairs if they become hard to navigate or if you have to use a wheelchair. Seats in your shower along with an accessible and removable shower head, lowered shelves to hold grooming supplies and a handle to help you in and out of the tub or shower unit can all be changes that will help accommodate your right to privacy and good hygiene. You might also need to think about expanding doorways, adjusting the height of your countertops, or making storage more accessible. Arrangements can be made to reconfigure or bring in specialty equipment for ease of use. It’s possible that your floors may need to be changed (from a deep pile carpet which can catch wheelchairs or even cause a tripping hazard) to low pile carpets or laminate for better traffic movement. Better lighting can help you see in the dark, and motion sensor lights can alleviate the need for reaching for light switches. There are so many different things to think about that someone trained in the process will help to ensure nothing is overlooked and can make suggestions that haven’t even entered your mind. Renovations can be a large expense and quite the production; you want to get it done right the first time. Your accessibility specialist will also give you an estimated budget for the renovations you’d like done so that you can determine which are affordable and which ones might need tweaking.
Since most accessibility specialists have dealt with numerous renovations, they can often lead you to competent and efficient businesses and contractors able to handle the suggested modifications. From electricians to carpenters to plumbing suppliers, an experienced accessibility specialist has set up a good relationship with a variety of tradespeople and can let you know which ones will be right for your particular job and one that will do the work based on your budget.
Article by Jon Reyes, a guest writer from Vidalux. Jon is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.