What Is Self-Determination and Why Is It Important?

What Is Self-Determination and Why Is It Important?

The purpose of the Gateway to Self-Determination Project is to scale-up efforts to promote the self-determination of people with disabilities. This publication was developed to help communicate, through the stories of people with disabilities, what is meant by self-determination and why it is important that people with disabilities receive the supports they need to live self-determined lives. Quite simply, being self-determined means making things happen in a person’s own life, instead of having others do things to or for them. People who are self-determined know what they want and how to get it. They choose and set goals, then work to reach them. They advocate on their own behalf, and are involved in solving problems and making decisions about their lives. They don’t have to do everything for themselves, but instead, they make or cause things to happen in their lives that improve the quality of their lives. The Developmental Disabilities Act describes self-determination activities as activities that result in individuals with developmental disabilities, with appropriate assistance, having: the ability and opportunity to communicate and make personal decisions; the ability and opportunity to communicate choices and exercise control over the type and intensity of services, supports, and other assistance the individual receives; the authority to control resources to obtain needed services, supports, and other assistance; opportunities to participate in, and contribute to their communities; and support, including financial support, to advocate for themselves and others, to develop leadership skills, through training in self-advocacy, to participate in coalitions, to educate policymakers, and to play a role in the development of public policies that affect individuals with developmental disabilities. In this publication, you’ll hear people with disabilities talk about what self-determination means to them. You can also go to the website for the project (http://www.aucd.org/ngsd) and see a multimedia collection of video segments of the participants.

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