What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is where a person (often a parent/guardian or family member) is legally appointed by a judge to make decisions for a person with a disability. These decisions can be where the person lives, what kind of medical care they receive, and even if they can get married and who they get married to. When considering guardianship, it is important to consider how necessary it is, as it can be difficult to reverse later on.   

What is SDM?

Guardianship is not the only option for people with disabilities! Supported Decision – Making (SDM) is an alternative that allows people with disabilities to make choices about their own lives with support from a team of people they choose. Their team would consist of people that the person with the disability knows and trusts to help them with making decisions. SDM gives people with disabilities more autonomy over their own lives and helps their support team empower them to maintain more of their independence than traditional guardianship allows for.

How Does the SDM Process Work?

  1. A person with a disability identifies the areas where they need decision-making assistance such as healthcare, employment, relationships, finances, etc. as well as the type of support they need.
  2. The person with a disability chooses supporters that they trust for their team. This could consist of family members, friends, professionals, etc.  
  3. The supporters commit to providing information to the person with the disability so that they can make their own decisions. Supporters commit to honoring and respecting the person’s decisions.  
  4. The person with the disability and supporters completes a supported decision-making agreement (found on the WI Department of Health Services website: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/library/collection/f-02377 ).

This process promotes self-determination, consumer control, autonomy, and independence!  


Written by Madison Matijevich, Independent Living Consultant