For more than 30 years the self-advocacy movement and its allies have put the principle of self-determination by people with disabilities front and center in their advocacy to improve services, supports, policies, and opportunities for people with disabilities. Their efforts were the driving force behind the early research studies and policy changes of the 1990s that positioned self-determination as an essential part of supporting people with disabilities to live their lives in a manner reflecting their individual choices, values, and goals. Over the past three decades understandings of self-determination and how to support it have become deeper and broader. Today, for instance, we recognize that the need for self-determination is present and can shift in expression across the lifespan, that it has cultural dimensions and doesn’t look the same for everyone, and that it has an important impact on all areas of life. Supported Decision-Making (SDM) as one way to support people with disabilities to exercise self-determination has recently become a growing focus of court cases, policies and laws, service provider practices, and K-12 education initiatives.
In this Impact issue we look at how people with disabilities are experiencing self-determination and SDM across the U.S. and in other countries today. Articles include discussions about self-determination and SDM in education and human service settings (including as an alternative to guardianship), personal stories of individuals with disabilities and their families embracing self-determination and SDM, and resources for supporting self-determination and SDM.