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Characterising supported decision-making for people who communicate informally

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Article 12 of the UNCRPD emphasises equal legal capacity and the right to receive appropriate support with decision-making. Ratifying nations of the Convention have an obligation to ensure this principle is upheld for all citizens, including people who communicate informally. Despite this clear mandate, little is known about what decision-making and supported decision-making looks like for this population.

This paper describes decision-making for people who communicate informally within a supported decision-making intervention specifically designed for them. A systematic literature review and qualitative research study was carried out. Within the research five people and their supporters participated in a supported decision-making process. Interview, focus group, questionnaire and observation data were collected and analysed.

A review of the literature found that supporters’ responsiveness, although complex, is important when supporting a person who communicates informally with decision-making. However, little is known about the mechanics of affective responsiveness to the expressions of preference of people who communicate informally. This study has highlighted that supporter responsiveness is a multi-faceted activity, made up of a number of tasks mentioned in the literature as synonymous with responsiveness, including acknowledging, interpreting, and acting upon a person’s will and preference. Within supported decision-making, supporter responsiveness is reliant on the implementation of these tasks collectively and sequentially. Several factors were identified as affecting supporter responsiveness within this context.

The paper furthers understanding of what supported decision-making looks like for people who communicate informally, focusing specifically on the role of supporters in responding to their expressions of preference.


Joanne Watson    
Deakin University

Erin Wilson    
Deakin University

Nick Hagiliassis    


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