A network of Ohio self-advocates, families and professionals has launched a website and is holding monthly meetings to help raise awareness of supported decision-making.
The Supported Decision-Making Network of Ohio says the aim is to empower people with developmental disabilities to direct their own lives to the greatest extent possible by selecting people who, when needed, will help with decisions.
Embracing that simple practice can reduce what are sometimes unnecessary guardianships, said Josh Young, director of operations at the Ohio Network for Innovation.
“We have tended to judge capacity as an all-or-nothing thing. People either have the capacity to make these decisions, or they don’t,” he said. “And that is not accurate.”
Seeing people with disabilities as vulnerable or in need of protection also can deprive them of the opportunity to learn, grow and make decisions. Many schools, Young said, have encouraged families to make guardianship a part of transition planning. “There has been this pipeline between schools and guardianship,” he said. “We don’t have to destroy that pipeline; we just have to change the information flowing through it.”
According to the National Resource Center for Supported Decision Making, a dozen or so states have enacted supported decision-making legislation. An attempt in Ohio was scrapped earlier this year after some disability-rights advocates said they feared the statute could lead to unwelcome regulation.
Young said that, for now, the new network is focused on education. “We’d like to get the word out so that more people know about it,” he said. “Every month when we meet, we start with someone telling a real-life story about supported decision-making.”
The Supported Decision-Making Network of Ohio holds online meetings from noon to 1:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month. For more information, go to sdmno.org