This course complements the coursework and designation program of the "CAPS" (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist") and focuses more on designing living spaces for individuals and households that are essentially generic.
Whereas aging-in-place design often is concerned with creating specific solutions for individuals with limiting physical conditions, universal design is a more comprehensive approach that considers that some people may have limitations accessing or using certain parts of the home so the design accommodates the widest possible range of needs. In a phrase, universal design is all access for all people. Obviously there will be certain special needs that need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but universal design forms the underlying framework for effective home design. Anything beyond that can be addressed as required.
The universal design coursework is well-suited for interior designers, kitchen and bath designers, architects, occupational therapists, physical therapists, durable medical equipment providers, general contractors and remodelers, handymen, home builders, real estate sales professionals, new home salespeople, specialty contractors and retailers (lighting, flooring, cabinetry, and plumbing, for instance), and others interested in creating effective living spaces for the general public or specific clients.
One of the lesser stressed benefits of having a home built or remodeled with universal design features is that it creates a wider audience and enhanced value for future resale purposes. Both people living in homes designed this way and those visiting it as guests or considering the purchase of it will appreciate the way it accommodates so many physical needs well.
The universal design/build course begins at the curb and continues through the backyard. Some of the areas covered include access into the home (and potential modifications that might need to be considered), safety in and around the home, entrances, passageways, mechanical and electrical systems in the home, movement within the home and between floors, living areas, kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, home offices, and technology.
This is why it is such an effective learning tool.
This is not a certification course but rather an educational program. Aging-in-Place is an area where consumers and other professionals look for and appreciate the credentials. Universal design is a tool used to achieve successful aging-in-place solutions and design. While there are some certification programs one can enroll in, the field of universal design is quite fluid and evolving very rapidly. The core concepts are solid, but the tools we have available to implement those solutions and treatments are numerous.
It is not necessary or even a prerequisite that someone have the CAPS designation before taking the Universal Design/Build course, but it is a great extension of that program. Universal Design/Build is a standalone course but may make more sense if the CAPS program has been taken first.