UDCP: Client Needs Assessment

by Kacey Larsen
NARI recertification credits

There are a lot of misconceptions about universal design and remodeling. It is not about being disabled; it is about accommodating the needs of most people.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was conceived with the goal of integrating people with disabilities into all aspects of American life, particularly the workplace and marketplace. Sensitivity toward people with disabilities is not only in the spirit of the ADA, but it also makes good business sense. It can help expand your practice, better serve your customers and develop your audience. Practicing disability etiquette is an easy way to make people with disabilities feel welcome.

Assessment of Needs

There are many tools to aid the contractor in asking questions and making evaluations of the physical environment and structure. Developing your own questionnaire will help your company be consistent. For example:   

Is the customer the one who is paying the bill, or the person whom the space is designed for? Who will be responsible for payment?

It could be both! It’s up to the contractor to set the ground rules—like any other proj-ect. When creating a space that is universal design—meaning there are no apparent needs to accommodate for a specific disability, but rather advancing the project with a holistic approach—the client is the one person you have mutually determined will have the final say and to whom you will present the invoice.

Are there other professionals or family members I should be consulting with, e.g., caregivers, visiting nurses, occupational therapists, etc.?

In households where it is obvious there is someone who needs specific accessible modifications, they might not be the one paying the bill. It will be up to the interviewing contractor to determine who the contact person is, who will make the final budgetary decisions and who will make the final modification decisions. This could mean there will be decision makers who are not part of the household but contribute to the well-being of the client(s), such as visiting nurses, attendant care professionals and physical therapists; in most cases, it will be family members.

As a remodeler, it is your responsibility to ask questions and listen. Just like any other project—the same rules apply. When trying to determine who will be the go-to person, ask questions such as, “I see that everyone would like to have a say in what’s happening here. We wouldn’t want to miss something because I’m not sure whom I should be asking. Would it be helpful for you if there was one person whom I can ask questions and receive answers? Each member of the family can discuss with this one person, making communication more effective.” This will not only help you in the communication process, but it also takes the burden off other family members while still giving them all a say in the project.

Age and Building Restrictions

By being observant and using the standard “ask and listen” techniques, a contractor will be able to recognize barriers that might not seem obvious. Progressive visual impairment, a person’s age and the condition of the home are common indicators.

Conducting a Home Audit

There are home audit tools readily available on the web to help contractors in evaluating a home. 

Universal design is about making the home more convenient for more people. By developing a comprehensive home audit in the beginning, universal remodeling plans will be easier to create and apply.

Lifestyle and Environments

As mentioned before, universal design and remodeling is all about people and their lifestyles. Everyone is unique and abilities vary from person to person and house to house. Lifestyle and physical environments play an important role for the universal remodeler. People are staying in their homes for a much longer time. The challenge is to design and remodel a home that is open and usable throughout a lifetime regardless of changing abilities.

When to Bring in a Specialist

Universal remodeling is all about designing a home for all abilities and ages. What does that mean to the contractor? They must know and understand the differences and technologies, have patience to ask the tough questions and listen, and have ample staff. They should be trained in emerging technologies, construction techniques and social services. Just as you would bring in an engineer to determine roof load or a plumber to tell you how to install a fixture, the practice of universal remodeling is no different. Every contractor has their specialty—you’re not less of a contractor if you’re not up on the latest in universal remodeling. Use experts, such as occupational or physical therapists and an electronic systems integrator, just as you use your trade professionals—they are the experts and can help you in helping your client achieve the best results. The clients in turn will trust the contractor for recognizing their individual needs and making sure they have been given the best service. |QR 

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