Texas First State to Pass Supported Decision-Making Law

Posted on

March 9, 2016

Edie Surtees
Communications Director

AUSTIN – Texas is leading the way with a new groundbreaking state law that safeguards the rights of people with disabilities to make their own choices. Under full guardianships, people lose most of their basic civil rights, including the right to vote or make their own important life decisions about medical treatment, work, school, and more. Just because people with disabilities may need some assistance in decision making, it doesn’t mean their right to make their own choices should be automatically and completely taken away. Don’t most people need advice or help when making some of life’s decisions?

With new legislation that took effect on September 1, 2015, Texas is now the first state where Supported Decision Making (SDM) is a legally recognized alternative to guardianship for adults with disabilities. The law is one of several that passed this year that significantly reforms guardianship in Texas and supports more self-determination for people with disabilities.

A Supported Decision-Making Agreement (SDMA) establishes an informal alternative to guardianship where individuals can choose people they trust to help them understand the decisions they need to make and to communicate their decisions to others. Even though supporters assist individuals with disabilities in making decisions, the individuals with disabilities retain the exclusive right to make decisions on their own behalf. An SDMA is distinct from a power of attorney because it does not allow someone else to make decisions for a person.

Since the passage of the law, Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) has been busy training self-advocates, family members, caregivers, judges, attorneys, school professionals, and others on SDM and alternatives to guardianship. In fact, we have a detailed plan for educating people throughout the state and creating a variety of educational materials including a toolkit, sample forms, videos, and more, that will be available in English, Spanish and ASL versions. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter and look for future newsletters announcing new resources as they become available.

For a more information, visit our website where you can download our 2-page Supported Decision Making Overview, a sample Supported Decision-Making Agreement Form, and sample Authorization to Release Confidential Information Form.

If you are a person with a disability or a family member/caregiver who would like legal assistance from DRTx on creating a Supported Decision-Making Agreement, please call our Intake Line at 1-800-252-9108 to request our services.

If your group or organization would like DRTx to provide training on Supported Decision Making and Alternatives to Guardianship, please complete the speaker request form on the DRTx website.

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.

Visit www.DRTx.org for more information.