MetroWest Daily News
Monday, November 3, 2014
Read the column online here
by Tom Sannicandro
Last week I joined Gov. Deval Patrick, colleagues in the Legislature and over 100 disability advocates in signing the landmark Real Lives bill at Fenway Park.
The passage of the Real Lives Bill is a major milestone for disability rights in Massachusetts. It represents a fundamental shift in how we perceive people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by expressing a confidence in them as self-advocates whose own desires and interests should be central to their plans and their lives.
Somehow, in our culture, people with intellectual disabilities have been unable to make the types of decisions that all of us take for granted: where they live, who they live with, what activities they do during the day, and who they employ for their personal care.
Now, that has changed.
The Real Lives Bill allows any individual who receives services through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to utilize a person-centered planning model to control their own life decisions by giving them the power to choose how they spend their budgets.
Individuals can now direct DDS or a private support broker to purchase the services of their choosing that meet their needs and desires. Whether it’s a change in living situation, recreational activities and community involvement or work opportunities, these different options should be explored now that individuals have direct control over which specific services and providers they would like to utilize.
The bill ensures individuals have the support they need to make these difficult decisions. It ensures individuals have easy access to information, options, services and supports to enable them to self-direct their plans. The supports are also flexible so individuals can tailor them to their individual needs.