Supported Decision-Making: Empowering Choice

Every human being carries within the power of expression and choice. Supporting an individual's decision-making power builds autonomy and freedom. Choices may be simple, as in what to wear, or eat, or when to have the lights on. Choices may be substantial, as in how to vote, whether or not to leave employment, move across the town or planet, have children, or invest in a major purchase. Every choice we make matters. Every human being should be afforded freedom to make individual decisions to the greatest extent possible.

People with disabilities are entitled to receive support with decision-making that maximizes individual control and choice. This means that where a person needs support or protection, less-restrictive alternatives should be offered wherever possible.

DRW has taken a leadership role to develop training for lay and professional guardians, advocated for guardianship reform, and supported efforts to increase availability and effectiveness of alternatives such as powers of attorney and advance directives. DRW provides information and training on alternatives to guardianship to people with disabilities, family members guardians, advocates and others.

Summary of work: 

Milestone: November 5, 2013

During the summer of 2013, DRW conducted a statewide monitoring and outreach project to provide voting rights information to individuals with developmental disabilities receiving community-based Supported Living Services and to learn how their service providers support them in their everyday lives. DRW compiled a report identifying ways to improve people’s ability to engage in community life, as full participants, by illustrating typical examples in everyday lives of individuals in supported living. "Empowering Choice: from Pizza to Politics" will be used to start a dialogue about decision-making and its role in voting and civic engagement and how people with disabilities receiving Supported Living services can best be supported to increase decision-making skills and capabilities. In sharing these examples, DRW hopes to engage individuals receiving support, providers, policy makers and policy advocates in a discussion about how Washington’s service delivery system can more comprehensively enfranchise individuals with developmental disabilities as full and equal participants in our democracy. 

With this report, DRW hopes to begin a dialogue with individuals receiving support, service providers, advocates, and policy makers to increase supports for decision-making skills in Supported Living programs. Through focus groups, DRW will identify specific ways to increase decision-making capacity in individuals receiving supported living skills with the ultimate goal or increased enfranchisement, including voting participation, by the next presidential election.