About Supported Decision-Making

Table of Contents

What is Supported Decision-Making?

Supported Decision-Making is the collection of tools and practices a person uses to gather and understand information then consider their options and choices before making a decision.   

Supported Decision-Making can be used as an alternative to guardianship. Instead of having a guardian make a decision for the person with the disability, the person with the disability makes their own decisions with the help of a network of supporters..

People with disabilities may need assistance making a variety of decisions, but they do not automatically need a guardian to make those decisions for them.

A trusted network of supporters can answer questions and review options to help the person with the disability make their own decisions. Supporters are selected by the person with the disability. They can be family members, co-workers, friends, and past or present providers. The individual should select supporters who know and respect his or her will and preferences, and who will honor the choices and decisions the individual makes.

Supported Decision-Making is flexible, and can be changed to meet a person’s needs. No two Supported Decision-Making Plans will look the same; it varies from person to person.   

Video Description: People with disabilities, families and professionals all explain Supported Decision-Making and Why It’s Important.

How does Supported Decision-Making work?

  1. A person chooses the areas where they want decision-making assistance — health care, employment, relationships, finances, etc. — and the type of support that works best for them..
  2. Then the person enlists supporters they trust and who may have knowledge in the areas they chose for support.
  3. Supporters commit to providing information so the person can make their own decisions.
  4. Supporters commit to honoring those decisions and advocating with the person to implement them.
  5. Sometimes the person and their supporters execute a written Supported Decision-Making agreement.

Why is Supported Decision-Making Important?

Infographic on Supported Decision-Making and a Path to Dignity & Autonomy

For most people having choice and control over their daily lives is deeply important, but many people with disabilities don’t have access to making everyday choices and decisions. Supported Decision-Making offers an opportunity to change this reality. People with and without disabilities can get help making decisions about health care, life choices, and financial matters without giving up their rights to be in control of their lives.

When individuals with disabilities are seen and treated as capable decision-makers they gain confidence and become better advocates for themselves and others. By having the right to make their own decisions, people with disabilities are able to make social connections, increase self-esteem, increase self-worth, and experience personal growth and development – resulting in richer life experiences. Supported Decision-Making creates access for people with disabilities to direct and lead their own lives in their communities.

Decision-making and choice are central to our ideals of freedom and independence but adult guardianship stands against those ideals. People under guardianship lose the right to make their own decisions about most life decisions, big and small. Guardians are often appointed to make medical, financial, relational, and many other daily living decisions.No matter how supportive an individual guardian may be, the legal status of being subjected to guardianship is in opposition to true self-determination and autonomy.