Many people with intellectual disabilities are restricted in their legal capacity. This means that they have a legal guardian who takes some or all decisions for them. Considering between 2 and 3 % of the world’s population has an intellectual disability, this is a huge number of people that cannot exercise their legal rights. Access to justice for some individuals is also limited due to the lack of accessibility or reasonable accommodations. This can range from issues such as complicated legal to inaccessible court rooms.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) confirms that persons with intellectual disabilities should be able to make decisions for themselves and access the justice system on an equal basis with others, in Article 12. For this to be made a reality, we need to introduce supported decision-making systems that assist persons in taking decisions in an autonomous way.
Supported decision-making gives priority to the person’s will, needs and preferences and respects human rights norms. For example, persons with disabilities may choose one or more trusted support persons to assist them in exercising their legal capacity for certain types of decisions, or may call on other forms of support, such as peer support, advocacy, or assistance with communication.