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MA Bill Aimed at Getting a Life

November 14, 2011

BOSTON - Advocates for people with intellectual challenges are supporting a measure currently making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature. The "Real Lives" bill is designed to improve the quality of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their family members by giving them more choice and control.

The lead sponsor of the bill is state Representative Tom Sannicandro.

"It's more a civil rights issue: giving people control over resources that are given to them by the state, so that they can make choices about where they live, where they work, who they hang out with, what they do for social life."

The measure has been endorsed by many groups that advocate for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including the Arc of Massachusetts. Sannicandro says there is no real organized opposition to the bill, which will move through committee over the next week or two.

He says other states such as New York have implemented similar changes and the results have been positive.

"So rather than giving the providers the control over what happens in people's lives, the people that are affected get to control their own lives."

Susan Nadworny, chair of Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change, agrees, and says all people aspire to control their own fates.

"This particular bill really gives people the opportunity to drive their own lives."

If the measure becomes law, individuals would determine how to best spend their allocated dollars for support services.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MA