Supported Decision-Making

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, Governor Sununu signed SB 134, which establishes Supported Decision Making (SDM) as a statutorily-recognized alternative to guardianship for adults with disabilities and their families.

What is Supported Decision-Making?

Unlike guardianship, which involves the substitution of the guardian’s judgement for that of the person who is subject to the guardianship, the use of SDM maintains the person’s autonomy by providing supports so that the person can make their own decisions. Supports might include the use of plain-language materials, the presence of a supporter in meetings, and assistance in choosing from among a range of alternatives.

For many people, SDM will have advantages over guardianship. Guardianship is a court-imposed structure that completely removes decision making from the person with a disability. SDM, however, can be flexible in how it is applied from one person to the next, and in how it is applied to the same person over time. An SDM agreement will only exist if the person with the disability chooses it and is comfortable with their
designated supporters.

The benefit of retaining the freedom to make decisions is obvious to most of us and a good reason to use SDM whenever it is a safe alternative. What may be less obvious is the benefit to people when they exercise self-determination without the constraints of guardianship. People with greater self-determination are healthier, more independent, and better able to recognize and resist abuse. They also tend to be known and valued in their communities.

Disability Rights Center-NH and the Institute on Disability at UNH hosted a panel discussion on supported decision making and other alternatives to guardianship and how such laws and related policies can inhibit or promote the voices of people with disabilities.

Screen shot of panelists and ASL interpreter on Zoom

Event Recording & Materials

Live captioning and ASL interpreting were supported by the NH Bar Foundation Advancement of Justice Fund. Additional support was provided by the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities.


Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with disabilities across New Hampshire. DRC is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for New Hampshire and has authority under federal law to conduct investigations in cases of probable abuse or neglect.

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