The freedom to make decisions which affect our lives is a fundamental right that each of us should enjoy.
The decisions and choices that we make are a reflection of who we are as individuals. They allow us to express our views, our personalities, our desires and goals as well as to reflect what we think is important in life. Through these choices and decisions we can pursue the lifestyles that we want.
Outcomes of decisions - good and bad - help us learn and grow as individuals. Through involvement in decision making we can gain experience, confidence and knowledge which enrich our lives.
Making and being involved in decisions also allows us to participate in our communities and broader society. Through this active participation we feel greater connection to and responsibility for our communities. A sense of control in home life and at work is also linked to better health and wellbeing outcomes.
Where people are denied the right to make decisions, or are restricted by others as to the type of decisions they can make, they are potentially being denied their human rights.
We all make decisions based on the best information that is available to us. This includes advice and support from friends, partners, family members and other significant people in our lives as well as past experiences.
People with a disability are no different in this regard. However some people may require some additional assistance in order to be able to make and express choices. Such assistance might include access to communication aids or translators, information in different formats, longer timeframes or different environments in which to make decisions.
Some people may require more specific support to make decisions, including reminders of previous decisions and more explanation of the implications of their decisions.
People with a disability may also be excluded from decision making processes that affect them because others make incorrect assumptions they don't have capacity to understand issues or consequences, or others believe they know what is best for them.
Where assistance is required but not provided people with a disability are not fully involved in decision making.
This guide recognises and supports a human rights-based approach to services for people with a disability. It has been developed as part of the Victorian Government's reorientation of disability services to self-directed approaches and to make it easier for people with a disability to pursue individual lifestyles.
This reorientation changes the roles of service users and providers. Rather than being service 'recipients', people become active participants in planning and obtaining the supports they feel will best meet their needs and goals.
Whilst service providers retain a responsibility for service quality and outcomes, their role is more in enabling; providing advice and support to help people with a disability exercise as much choice and control as possible over their life.
These changing roles will require adjustment by people with a disability, and support workers and service providers. This guide is intended to assist in this process for service providers, people with a disability and their supporters by providing approaches to decision making which underpin lifestyle choices.
The guide offers a principles-based approach to supporting decision making by people with a disability for use by the disability sector as a whole. It represents one step in communicating and facilitating the change that needs to occur in disability services to ensure that people with a disability can, to the greatest extent that they are able, exercise the basic right to make choices and decisions.