The Equal Right to Decide: A Pilot Project supporting Ontarians with intellectual and other disabilities gain power over their lives

People who have intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial or mental health disabilities often face barriers in exercising the power to make and direct their own decisions about life, health care, and money.  This diminishes a person’s value. Community Living Ontario, with the support of community-based organizations, launched a multi-year year pilot project in January 2019 to give people more power over their own lives. The Equal Right to Decide was inspired by the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which saw success in lifting legal barriers to allow people with a range of disabilities to make their own life choices.

The main purpose is to test and analyze different ways of supporting people to make their own decisions. We will create resources that will allow organizations and families to support their loved ones in taking back the decision power.  Lessons learned through the pilot will guide our advocacy work surrounding policy and law reform with a particular focus on how to adjust specific issues surrounding guardianship and how to deal with the existing legal framework. Ultimately, this project is intended to find the best ways to support people in:

  1. Providing decision-making assistance: Reasonable support to accommodate a person’s ability to exercise control over their own rights.
  2. Overcoming barriers: Identifying where people are running into roadblocks and identify ways to overcome those barriers.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. We brought together people from Windsor, Dryden, Toronto, Durham Region, and Brockville. During the planning and design sessions, early results demonstrated that when people are supported in their decision-making, they regain a voice, confidence and the capacity to take power over their own lives. Due to its early successes and recognized value as an important piece to helping people live in a state of dignity, it is now growing into a national pilot with the help of the Canadian Association for Community Living. We have also identified new potential partnerships outside the community living movement that face similar barriers. This includes Indigenous groups, elderly people, and people suffering from mental illness.

Community Living Ontario and the pilot partners will analyze the remaining data. We will share our results and resources with local communities across Ontario, including those outside the developmental services sector. We will spread the information and seek additional funding to scale-up the pilot across Ontario, supporting even more people. Eventually, we will tell the Ontario government how laws and policies must change so all people can have power over their own lives and live in a state of dignity.