Think for a moment about the decisions you make, every day. Simple and hard choices. Important choices and silly ones. What you want to do, who to see, where to live, work, and go. These choices make us who we are and show us who we want to be. They are the building blocks of the rights every American holds dear: the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Now think about how you would feel if you had no right to make choices. If someone else had the power to tell you where you have to live, who you can spend time with, or what you can spend money on. Would you even feel like an American?
But, that’s exactly what can happen to people with disabilities when they are put in a guardianship. When a person is put in a guardianship, a court takes away his or her rights, and gives them to someone else. Studies show that the vast majority of guardianships take away all of the person’s rights, giving the guardian the power to make every single decision for the person, instead of the person.
And that’s a problem, because study after study shows that when people have more control over their lives, they have better lives. One study compared people with disabilities who had similar abilities and limitations. It found that the ones who did not have guardians were more likely to be employed, live independently, socialize in their communities, and practice the religion of their choice than the ones with guardians.
So, we believe that in almost all circumstances, there must be a better way. A way that keeps people in control of their own lives, making their own decisions, while giving them the help they may need and want to do so. It’s called Supported Decision-Making.