A person who uses a wheelchair also needs a ramp to access a building, the same with many people with cognitive disabilities that need support to be able to make decisions and determine their own lives. Supported decision making is the practice of providing support to those people with cognitive disabilities so they are able to make decisions. This is an alternative to guardianship that allows an individual with a disability to work with a team and make their own choices about his or her own life.
Why is this important?
The right to make decisions about one’s own life is a fundamental right within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sadly, there is a long history of people with disabilities being denied the right to make decisions for themselves especially when they had the capacity to make that decision.
Most people require support when making decisions about their lives – even those without a disability often refer to friends, family or a professional for advice about love, health, finances, or career. Being able to make all kinds of decisions for ourselves is important for our mental health and well-being and increases self-determination in our lives.
People with cognitive disabilities (including intellectual disability and acquired brain injury) benefit from making their own decisions too however, they just may need some support from others.
In Australia, over 1 million people have some form of cognitive impairment due to intellectual disability or acquired brain injury and require significant levels of support for decision making.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) means that people with cognitive disability will be required to make decisions about the services they use and the kinds of care that they receive and so vital that they have support around them to assist in that decision making.
For people with cognitive disabilities, being able to make decisions not only requires having their rights acknowledged and upheld, but also having access to support that enables participation.
Until now, there has been limited investigation into how people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and those in their social support network participate in the decision-making process.