Teaming Up with an Occupational Therapist – Part 2

posted on Nov. 13, 2019, at 9:00 a.m.

NKBA Staff

Finding the right occupational therapist makes the design process faster and more efficient. By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

Editor’s Note: After a 1998 spinal cord injury left Rosemarie Rossetti paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, she and her husband, Mark Leder, needed to build a new home to accommodate her newly compromised mobility. They worked with the design team and were the general contractors, and founded the Universal Design Living Laboratory in Columbus, Ohio, where they’ve been living since 2012. It is the top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications. In this article, the second of a two-part series, she discusses finding an occupational therapist, benefits of working with one, and financing to design homes with maximum function and safety in mind. Part 1 appears here.

What is the value and why work with an occupational therapist on a design project?

Occupational therapists can pinpoint design problems and requirements early, so they can be corrected before construction starts. An occupational therapist on the design team gives the client more confidence, knowing that a medical specialist is looking out for them.

Karen Koch, occupational therapist and licensed builder from the Home Modification Occupational Therapy Alliance (HMOTA), cited many benefits of teaming up with an occupational therapist on a design project. Most importantly, occupational therapists are familiar with products on the market and where to obtain them, and how much space devices like stair lifts and elevators require in the home design. They have a large national network to tap into for additional answers to questions and resources.

Koch also noted that when an occupational therapist is on the design team, there is less time spent creating the design and sending it back and forth among architect, interior designer, occupational therapist, builder and client. Knowing any constraints or parameters upfront leads to a more efficient design process.

Occupational therapists come with a different perspective, having worked with many clients with various disabilities,to accommodate home modifications based on the progression of medical conditions. An interior designer will learn about the client’s needs from a different perspective. What is learned from an occupational therapist on one project may transfer to other projects.

Who pays pays for the consulting services of an occupational therapist on a design project?

If your client has a medical condition that was caused by an injury on the job, often the consulting services of the occupational therapist are paid by Worker’s Compensation. If the person was injured in an automobile accident, the auto insurance policy might provide for these consulting fees. Clients with disability insurance should check their policy to see if the consulting services are covered, while for clients 65 years or older, there is a benefit through Medicare insurance if the client’s physician prescribes OT consulting. In most cases, however, these consulting fees are privately paid directly by the client.

How do I find a local occupational therapist who is familiar with home modification and accessible design?

Koch referenced the Home Modification Occupational Therapy Alliance (HMOTA) to find an occupational therapist, She indicated that there are more than 900 occupational therapist members who specialize in home modifications throughout the U.S.

The American Occupational Therapy Association is the national professional association that represents the interests and concerns of occupational therapy practitioners. Contact them to locate a local occupational therapist at

In Summary

Your clients deserve the best possible design solutions. Your projects will be enhanced every time you have involved an occupational therapist in the design process. You will approach each future design with a different mindset.

Occupational therapists understand how people interact with design and with products in the home. Your design will be customized for each client taking into account their medical conditions now and projections about their future.

Occupational therapists have specific experiences and knowledge that interior designers don’t have. The result will be better accessibility, comfort and safety for your client. A residence that is accessible allows individuals more independence to enter, move within and function in their homes.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D., CLIPP, is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. The Universal Design Living Laboratory, located in Columbus, Ohio, is the top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications. To purchase the Universal Design Toolkit at a 50% discount, or get a free chapter, take a virtual tour, and learn more about her national demonstration home and garden, the Universal Design Living Laboratory, visit To contact Rosemarie and learn about her speaking, training, and consulting services, go

To apply for Certified Living In Place Professional (CLIPP) certification, issued by the Living In Place Institute, click here. NKBA members get a discount.

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