By Dawn Adams, Executive Director Indiana Disability Rights
This past summer, Indiana Disability Rights had the privilege of representing Jamie Beck in terminating her guardianship in favor of using a supported decision-making agreement, a historic first for Indiana. This agreement allows Ms. Beck to make her own decisions about how she will live her life and provides documentation of specific individuals she has chosen to provide support in specific areas such as finance and medical decisions. But, at the end of the day, Jamie gets to make the final decision.
But what is Supported Decision-Making (SDM)? Just as wheelchairs can be used to accommodate people who need help with mobility, SDM is a way to accommodate the decision-making process for those who need some assistance. Think about the decisions you make in your everyday life: what to wear in the morning, where to eat lunch today, or whether or not you should buy a new car. You probably quickly decide on your own what you will wear each day. You may ask some co-workers for recommendations for a new lunch spot. But a new car is a bigger decision that will likely involve talking to a partner, friends, mechanic, or even going online to read reviews. In the last situation, you sought out “support” to help you make a decision.
Because guardianship is restrictive in nature and grants all decision-making power to the guardian, SDM is quickly being recognized as an alternative to guardianship. This does not mean that SDM is right for everyone. But in the many cases where it is appropriate, SDM can serve as both a tool for support and self-determination by recognizing and respecting a person’s ability to make their own decisions.
Indiana Disability Rights is proud to launch our website dedicated to providing trusted resources about SDM in Indiana for the public, legal practitioners, and individuals with disabilities. This website is in its infancy and as more resources are developed and vetted, they will be added to the site for open and free access to anyone who is eager to learn more.