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Thinking Outside of the Box

posted by Nicole Ericson on Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Did you know that most all individuals living with a disability and receiving disability services have what are called "Rights Restrictions"? A Rights Restriction is a limitation to the rights of an individual due to a specific, assessed, immediate need, to support the health, safety, and well-being of the individual or community.

These individual restrictions are put in place by the interdisciplinary team. Typically, an interdisciplinary team consists of the person served, case manager, guardian, and members of the service team.

Most restrictions are that of Guardianship which means a person has a legally appointed support person to make medical, financial, and/or day-to-day decisions on their behalf, to ensure the person's needs are being met.

Another typical restriction type is a Financial Restriction, meaning that a person has agreed to having their money managed by a representative payee who supports and makes financial decisions with, and on behalf of that person to ensure financial security.

In most cases these are reasonable restrictions with the goal that the individual will acquire the skills to be independent in these areas and no longer need the rights restriction in the future.

While all restrictions are created in the best interest of the person served, restricting someone's rights should always be a last resort. For example, Sally has a "stove restriction" restricting her access to using her stove alone. This restriction was agreed upon by Sally and her team after Sally burnt popcorn, causing her home to fill with smoke. This instance presented a potential health and safety risk for Sally and her room mates. With that, her access to using her stove is now limited to only when her direct support professional is with her.

Is there another approach? For example, could her direct support professional support her in purchasing microwave popcorn, or learning how to avoid burning food when using the stove by cooking at a lower temperature? Is there accommodation that could support Sally with using the stove? Such as, a temperature sensor, smart home technology?

It is important for a team to research and brainstorm possible alternative solutions first.  Accommodations, supports or goals also provide a level of safety, an opportunity to learn, and the right to live as independently as possible in the most least restricted environment.

Many times, there may be an "immediate" need for a restriction to ensure health, safety, and well-being. Sadly, once in place these restrictions can become "permanent" if not made a priority to overcome the barriers giving cause to the restriction. 

If a team decides a restriction is indeed an immediate need. This restriction must be carefully monitored and regularly evaluated with an active plan to restore this right as soon as possible.

We want to challenge everyone to think outside of the box related to rights restrictions and ensure we are advocating for long-term growth and independence. Remember we all make mistakes, sometimes more than once, and with each mistake comes experience. If we never experience something, we are never challenged to grow from it.

About The Author

Nicole Ericson, EPI's Community Development Director, has been with the agency since 2010.