Qualifications and credentials that matter in home accessibility and modification work
by Bonnie J. Lewis
October 19, 2017

Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)—through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)

Definition: Certified Aging in Place Specialists have completed and passed a basic NAHB program for the residential aging in place remodeling industry.
Formal education: N/A
Continuing education: Designation holders are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education every three years from building industry-related educational activities.
Training: A three-day program offered by the NAHB
Licensing: N/A
Professional associations: N/A

Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP)—through the Living in Place Institute

Definition: Certified Living in Place Professionals have completed and passed a basic Living in Place Institute program, which is for a working professional who recommends, specifies, installs or sells home design and products, and is licensed and/or certified as required in their respective state, county or municipality in their respective profession, for the duration of their certification, with copies submitted to the Living In Place Institute every time these are renewed.
Formal education: N/A
Continuing education: N/A
Training: A two-day program offered by the Living in Place Institute
Licensing: N/A
Professional associations: N/A

Interior Designers

(Caution: Interior decorators do not have any of the credentials of an interior designer. Be sure to verify credentials.)
Definition: Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure, that are functional, safe, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs adhere to national and local building code and regulatory requirements.
Formal education: College degree in interior design
Continuing education: Required by membership in ASID and IIDA (10 hours every two years)
Training: Current college programs teach universal design, space planning, CAD drafting/drawing, ADA and building codes, kitchen and bath design, materials, fabrics, lighting and decorative arts
Licensing: Many states and provinces require by law interior designers to be registered or licensed. Optional licensing is offered from the National Council of Interior Design Qualification.
Professional associations:

  • American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)— An interior design degree and 10 hours of continuing education every two years are required for membership
  • International Interior Design Association (IIDA)— An interior design degree and 10 hours of continuing education every two years are required for membership

Senior Living Interior Designers

Definition: Senior living interior designers are an advanced level of interior designer, with expertise in highly-specialized, evidenced-based design for physical and psychological needs of the older population. They design senior living environments such as assisted and independent living communities, memory care, skilled nursing, rehab, hospice, assisted and group care homes and other housing.
Formal education: College degree in interior design
Continuing education: Required by membership in ASID and IIDA (10 hours every two years)
Training: College programs teach universal design, space planning, CAD drafting/drawing, ADA and building codes, kitchen and bath design, materials, fabrics, lighting, and decorative arts.
Various specialized senior living, health care and evidenced-based design training and continuing education opportunities available to professional interior designers.
Licensing: Many states and provinces require by law interior designers to be registered or licensed. Optional licensing is offered from the National Council of Interior Design Qualification.
Professional associations:

  • American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)— An interior design degree and 10 hours of continuing education every two years are required for membership 
  • International Interior Design Association (IIDA)— An interior design degree and 10 hours of continuing education every two years are required for membership 
  • The Center for Health Design Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments

General Contractors / Home Remodelers / Builders

Definition: A residential general contractor is a builder or home remodeling professional who organizes and executes larger remodeling or new construction projects. This includes full supervision of the work, scheduling of the subcontractors and compliance with the building codes. Contractors are unable to be licensed without having also passed an examination that covers business management competency. Other requirements include criminal background check, plus not possessing any outstanding open contracting grievances. A licensed contractor has workers’ compensation and liability insurance for his or her employees and can get and sign building permits. Often these professionals are confused with home improvement pros.

A home remodeling professional or builder deals with longer projects that incorporate specific design and architectural ideas to provide a homeowner with a better living experience, either by adding space or making better use of an established space.

A home improvement contractor is usually tasked with smaller items such as installing new windows, flooring, cabinets, siding, landscaping, etc.

A good way to think of a residential general contractor is that he or she is in charge of home improvement contractors, or what are referred to in the field as “subcontractors.” Also, people often don’t realize that contractors do not design or make material, finishes and fixture selections. A professional interior designer or architect is needed to design the remodel or new home, provide the plans needed to obtain a permit and to build from. An interior designer will make material, finishes and fixture selections.
Formal education: An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in construction management is often desired.
Continuing education: Requirements vary by state.
Training: Experience in the industry is the most important requirement.
Licensing: Many states require general contractors and sub-contractors to be licensed.
Professional associations:

  • National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)

Occupational Therapists

Definition: Occupational therapists’ (OT) services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school); recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use; and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.
Formal education: In the past, most states only required a bachelor’s degree to become a licensed occupational therapist, but in 2007 all states (except Colorado) began requiring a master’s degree.
Continuing education: Most states require a licensed occupational therapist to continue their education in order to maintain their licensure. The number of continuing education units (CEUs) one needs varies from state to state.
Training: N/A
Licensing: Occupational therapists must obtain a state license. Requirements include completion of an accredited occupational therapy program, fieldwork experiences, and a passing score on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.
Professional associations:

  • The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA)
  • World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT)

Physical Therapists

Definition: Physical therapists (PT) help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility—in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need for long-term use of prescription medications and their side effects. Physical therapists can teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits. PTs examine each individual and develop a plan, using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness-and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyle.
Formal education: A graduate college degree, either a master’s or clinical doctorate, from an accredited education program
Continuing education: N/A
Training: Requirements vary by state.
Licensing: Candidates must pass a state-administered national exam.
Professional associations:

  • American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)