As we begin determining how to we might want to approach making changes in someone’s living environment – their physical space – we begin with an assessment of what is going on now.
There are several different aspects to consider: (1) how the home is physically constructed – layout, floor plan, design, type of construction, number of floors, and building materials used, (2) how easy is it to repair, amend, add-on, or renovate what is present – in light of existing products, updated technology that is available, and local building codes that may need to be met or observed, (3) the physical requirements of the occupants of the home – from minor to severe limitations or impairments, involving mobility, sensory, cognitive, reach, range of motion, perception, balance, stamina, coordination, and similar concerns, and (4) the likelihood of any of those physical conditions changing over time to require more serious treatments and modifications in the home.
Some of these methods are going to be more helpful to us than others based on our previous experience in using them, the way we like to approach a home audit or evaluation, how helpful the client and their family is in sharing what their concerns and needs are, how easy it is for observe how the client uses their living space, and our ability to note our observations independently of a formal notation format.
If we don’t want to start from scratch and create our own form, or if we want a little more organization to our assessment than just interviewing the client and taking notes or documenting what we see with some photographs and videos, we should find an evaluation or assessment form that we like to use. These differ from a checklist in that checklists lay out many best practices or guidelines to follow and ask us to observe whether they exist or note that they need to be included in the design. They do not offer anything qualitative that addresses how such an addition or deletion from a design will impact those who will be using it – or analyze or note any physical or functional characteristics of the people living in the home and using the space.
Checklists allow us to do an objective assessment of what is present or what should be that isn’t. Evaluation, assessment, or audit forms provide us the ability to note how or why a particular physical function does not work in a space – vision, hearing, reach, range of motion, strength, physical size, stature, grip, and other such factors – and to who that limitation applies. Some forms also allow us to ascribe a priority to the limitation to help us determine which issues or concerns are the most pressing and to devise a budget based on the most pressing or urgent needs first.
Regardless of how we approach our evaluations of a client’s property – the physical condition of it or the need for the client to function more effectively in the space, or a combination of the two – we need to find a method that we like and that will help us do our job effectively of making the proper recommendations based on what we note and observe.