Anyone who has struggled with mobility issues or cared for a friend or relative with a disability knows the emotional toll can be immense for the patient and his or her family. Finding compassionate and skilled service providers to help ease the strain and provide better quality of life can make all the difference.
Remodelers who have been educated to design and construct spaces for people with special needs can play an integral role in providing comfortable and functional homes for these clients. In fact, statistics indicate offering special-needs remodeling services could be a successful business strategy now and into the future. Consider the following:
- More than 36 million Americans have a disability, according to the 2009 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.
- The Washington-based Social Security Administration’s “Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2012” stated nearly 80 million baby boomers will file for retirement benefits during the next 20 years. This means an average of 10,000 people per day will be turning 65 for the next two decades.
- A Washington-based AARP study reports 89 percent of those 50 and older would prefer to remain in their own residences as they age.
A homeowner may be able to share his or her physical impairments with a remodeler, but without education a remodeler may not know how to ease the homeowner’s difficulties. The Washington-based National Association of Home Builders and Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Association of the Remodeling Industry offer courses and certifications—Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP), respectively—to help remodelers understand and meet clients’ special needs.
“We take a lot for granted when we don’t have special needs,” explains Bruce Graf, CR, CKBR, CAPS, owner of Graf Developments, a full-service remodeling firm in Grand Prairie, Texas. “When you’re going through the courses, they bring up issues to think about that wake you up to others’ needs. Because of my certification I can stand back, scan a room and automatically see problem areas. I could’ve watched and learned a little bit at a time. Instead, I go into a project knowledgeable about aspects that even the special needs person might not have given much thought.”
NAHB’s CAPS certification has been around for 10 years and was developed as a partnership between NAHB Remodelers and AARP with help from NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council, which is composed of members involved in housing for people age 50 and older, and the NAHB Research Center. To earn a CAPS designation, students must complete the following eight-hour courses: CAPS I, Marketing and Communication Strategies for Aging and Accessibility; CAPS II, Design/Build Solutions for Aging and Accessibility; and Business Management for Building Professionals (some applicants may be exempt from this course). Students must pass an exam for each course and complete 12 hours of continuing education every three years.
CAPS Board of Governors Chair Scott Sevon, CGR, CAPS, GMB, CGP, GMR, managing partner with MAW Chicago LLC, Palatine, Ill., says there are about 4,500 CAPS graduates in the U.S., making it one of NAHB’s most popular designations. He adds, despite the name, CAPS graduates are trained to work on any type of special-needs project. “CAPS trains remodelers to work with people with disabilities or who have had accidents, as well as the aging.”
Sevon and his business partner, Mike Nagel, CGR, CAPS, used their CAPS training to create a business niche making homes more functional for children with cerebral palsy. Sevon explains: “It is a wonderful feeling helping a child to become an active part of the family. We’ve done that by installing track systems; the kids can put on a body harness and walk around to some extent with their siblings or their parents just by touching the ground with their feet. As these kids get older, the track systems help them get in and out of bed, off a couch, in and out of a shower/tub/commode. We’ve done track systems in probably five homes in the last two years.”