Self-Determination




Self-determination is the right of persons with disabilities to make choices about their own lives, to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else, and to speak and advocate for themselves.

The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly - that is what each of us is here for.

Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

What is the concept of
Self-Determination?

Members of The Self-Advocacy Association of New York State describe Self-Determination as:

  • Having a choice;
  • Knowing more about ourselves;
  • Having dreams and goals and going after them;
  • Being in control;
  • Making our own decisions; and
  • Spending money our way;



What are the Principles of
Self-Determination?

  • Freedom - The ability for persons with freely chosen person and/or friends to plan a life with necessary support rather than purchase a program.


  • Authority - The ability for a person with a disability (with a social support network or circle if needed) to control a certain sum of dollars in order to purchase services.


  • Autonomy - The arranging of resources and personnel - both formal and informal - that will assist an individual with a disability to live a life in the community rich in community affiliations.


  • Responsibility - The acceptance of a valued role in a person's community through competitive employment, organizational affiliations, spiritual development, and general caring of others in the community, as well as accountability for spending public dollars in ways that are life-enhancing for persons with disabilities

Source: Thomas Nerney and Donald Shumway, Beyond Managed Care: Self-Determination for Persons with Disabilities, September, 1996)

5 Steps to Self-Determination

1. Build a Circle of Friends

2. Share the dream

3. Make an individual budget

4. Pick out who will give support

5. Connect with and give back to the community

Source: Self-Determination Association of NYS

Self Determination Resources

Find out more about self-determination on the websites listed here:

Center on Self-Determination

Center on Human Policy - John O'Brien and Connie Lyle O'Brien Papers

John O'Brien and Connie Lyle O'Brien (Responsive Systems Associates), through a subcontract with the Center on Human Policy, produce a wide range of informational material on person-centered planning, community building, and innovative services.

Olmstead v. L.C.

On June 22, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions may constitute discrimination based on disability. The court ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act may require states to provide community-based services rather than institutional placements for individuals with disabilities.

Practical Self-Determination Books




We suggest more parent user-friendly books on topics related to self-determination. Our affiliates help us to stay online. Thank you for your support.

Self-Determination Video

The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities produces the video The New Jersey Self-Determination Process "It Makes Life Worth Living". You may order a copy of The New Jersey Self-Determination Process "It Makes Life Worth Living" to get a better understanding of how the quality of life is improved with self-determination.

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