The Institutional Rights and Civil Liberties (IRCL) Team works to protect and advance the civil rights of Texans with disabilities and represents people with disabilities when their rights have been violated. Every citizen is guaranteed certain rights under the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution and other civil rights laws. The IRCL team seeks to ensure that people with disabilities are able to exercise these rights. IRCL provides access to information about civil rights, and advocates on behalf of our clients to protect their rights to fair treatment in jails and institutions, and the right live in the most integrated setting possible. The IRCL team casework includes:

  • Investigating allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disabilities in jails, prisons, and institutions
  • Monitoring the use of restraint and seclusion to make sure that they are only used in compliance with laws, regulations, and best practices
  • Protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities who come into contact
  • Monitoring jails to make sure that persons with disabilities have reasonably safe conditions of confinement, including access to adequate medical care and rehabilitation service

Pro Bono Opportunities with the IRCL Team: Guardianship Reform and Supported Decision Making

The Texas Legislature recently enacted reforms of the guardianship system which include supported decision making as an alternative to guardianship.  Supported decision making is a process of supporting and accommodating a person with a disability to enable the person to make life decisions, including decisions related to where the person wants to live, the services, supports and medical care the adult wants, whom the adult wants to live with, and where the adult wants to work without impeding the self-determination of the person.

A person with a disability can enter into a supported decision-making agreement, which Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has described as a “power of attorney light,” with a supporter of his or her own choice. Under a supported decision-making agreement which is voluntary and does not require court approval, a person with a disability retains the right to make life decisions with the assistance of a trusted family member, relative, or friend.  In short, a person with a disability can receive support in decision-making without completely giving up his or her right to make choices.

Supported decision making helps people with disabilities understand information, issues and choices, weigh options, ensure that decisions are based on their preferences, and interpret and/or communicate decisions to other parties.  Supported decision-making has the potential to increase the self-determination of people with disabilities, encouraging and empowering them to reap the benefits from increased life control, independence, employment and community integration.

Disability Rights Texas is seeking pro bono attorneys to help promote this new alternative to guardianship throughout Texas.  Attorneys who volunteer for this initiative will advise persons with disabilities about supported decision making agreements, and draft supported decision making agreements for those that desire to take advantage of this new and innovative alternative to a traditional guardianship.

Training

Disability Rights Texas will train pro bono attorneys about the most recent guardianship reforms and supported decision making agreements and will provide the necessary documents for the lawyer to assist a person with a disability in entering into a supported decision making agreement. Pro bono lawyers can volunteer to participate in one of our upcoming supported decision making clinics or represent a client on an individual basis.

If you are interested in becoming a DRTx Pro Bono Volunteer Attorney for the IRCL team in or scheduling a CLE for your office, firm, or corporate law department, please contact Cicely Reid, Pro Bono Coordinator, at 832.681.8216 or creid@DRTx.org OR complete our online form by clicking here.