Modifying homes to accommodate disabilities, can interior design professionals facilitate the process?

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Reilly, Catherine Victoria
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Changes in health care and an aging population create an increasing need to modify homes to accommodate disabilities. This study considered whether interior design professionals can play a role in facilitating the process of making these modifications. This study identified the context for modifying homes and the opportunities and constraints for interior design professionals within this context. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 households living in or near Winnipeg, Manitoba. The data were analyzed using an adaptation of the Strauss and Corbin (1990) grounded theory technique. This study supported observations of Hovey (1993), Pynoos (1993), Ringaert (1997), Steinfeld (1994), and Wylde (1997) that cost; limited knowledge of disabilities, design, and construction; reduced mobility and vitality; and time constraints, prevent consumers with disabilities from meeting their need for modifications. This study also found that consumers wanted modifications that improved their ability to be independent, were affordable, and had a non-institutional appearance. The main conclusion was that limitations in consumer knowledge of design and construction present opportunities for design professionals to facilitate the modifying process. However, low consumer awareness of interior design services and concerns about the cost of fees are important constraints to the involvement of the profession in facilitating home modifications. It was also determined that consumers with recent disabilities required more assistance than those with long term disabilities. The benefit of using interior design professionals relative to the cost was not determined and requires further study. Recommendations include measures to reduce the cost of design services, increase public awareness of professional skills, and the development of partnerships with the disability community and the home renovation industry.