BRUSSELS: 23 October 2014
Being able to make decisions and feeling accountable for them is central to one’s self-esteem, and instrumental in how people perceive their quality of life. It is no wonder that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) states in Article 12 that all people with disabilities should “enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.”
Most people with intellectual disabilities in Europe are, however, denied this right. As Prof. Theresia Degener, Vice-President of the UN CRPD Committee in charge of supervising the implementation of the treaty, said: “We have yet to find one country that has fully implemented the right to have and to exercise full legal capacity”. While all European Union member states have signed the CRPD, and all but three have ratified it, most still prevent people with intellectual disabilities from making decisions, labeling them as “incompetent” or “incapable” of doing so. Guardians are thus appointed to take decisions on behalf of the particular person, leaving the latter with no control over their life, and no voice in matters concerning them.
As a firm campaigner for equal rights for people with intellectual disabilities, Inclusion Europe has launched the Choices website. Available at www.right-to-decide.eu, Choices presents a range of supported decision-making models for people with intellectual and other disabilities, in a bid to offer sustainable, reliable and CRPD–compliant alternatives to guardianship. As the different presented practices show, support can be both formal and informal and can vary in type and intensity. For a person with an intellectual disability, support could include providing information in plain language or easy-to-read, explaining or trying different options, or, in some cases, articulating an opinion based on a deep knowledge of the will and desires of a particular individual, which stems from a long-lasting trusting relationship.
While there are many good practices available which can help supported decision-making, they are often scattered and hard to find. Choices therefore gathers and analyses the wealth of resources, making it easy for the reader to find the information they need, either by choosing the relevant area of life the model would be relevant to, or the type of support needed.
Implementing Article 12 of the CRPD requires a paradigm shift towards a human rights approach to legal capacity. Choices proves that efficient supported decision-making models could be built based on existing practices. As a framework which recognizes that all people make decisions with support, guidance or assistance from others, supported decision-making should become the norm in all European states.
For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org