Shira Wakschlag Advocates for Alternatives to Conservatorships with Supported Decision-Making

Shira Wakschlag (’10), Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and General Counsel at The Arc, was quoted in Salon pointing to the danger of conservatees not being taken seriously and advocating alternatives to conservatorships and guardianships (“Britney Spears’ Plight Reveals the Justice System’s Bias against Those Who Live with Mental Illness,” July 16). “One of the guiding principles of . . . the disability advocacy community is that people with disabilities must be presumed competent. . . . [T]hat’s an important principle to state and guide our advocacy because it’s often not presumed, whether by the general public or courts or in other settings.” Shira also discussed conservatees choosing trusted supporters as advisors in “supported decision-making” as a means of protecting autonomy. “[I]t can be used within a guardianship or conservatorship to help ensure that the person is having the least restrictive restriction on their rights.” Additionally, she noted a concerning lack of data around conservatorships as a broader systemic challenge. “I think that’s one of the keys, getting more data to have a better understanding of how many guardianships and conservatorships are out there. Making sure that monitoring systems are in place, and that rights reviews are in place, and due process protections are in place. Most state laws, or pretty much all states, do have a number of rights protections in place, but it’s also sometimes a question of whether those rights are being enforced.”