State and federal laws give people with developmental disabilities the broad rights to quality care — and to be treated with respect and dignity and without discrimination. They are also guaranteed particular rights to services and support both in the Individual Program Plans entered with a Regional Center and in the admission agreement with the facility.
Specifically, people with developmental disabilities have the legal rights to:
- Receive services and support enabling them to be as independent as possible in the least restrictive setting
- Consult with doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals when needed
- Attend any religious service they choose
- Socialize with people they choose and participate in community activities
- Be free from harm, including unnecessary physical restraint, isolation, or medication
- Be free from unwanted medical procedures — including shock therapy, surgery changing brain functioning, and painful behavior therapy
- Make choices about life options including housing, work, school, and leisure activities
Residents with developmental disabilities living in licensed facilities have additional legal protections concerning their care and housing, which must be clearly explained when they arrive and also posted at the facility. They include the rights to:
- Buy and use their own clothing and other personal possessions — including toothpaste, deodorant, and other toiletries
- Keep a small amount of money from Social Security to spend on personal items such as clothing and incidentals — currently $30 every month
- Have a secure place to store personal belongings — if locked, opened when needed
- Have daily visitors
- Have access to a telephone to place and receive private calls
- Receive unopened personal mail and have access to paper, stamps, and envelopes for writing
- Tell Regional Center representatives when care and services are unsatisfactory without any negative consequences
These rights cannot be denied as a punishment. Anyone claiming that a right must be limited for “good cause” — for example, because a visitor threatened to harm other residents — must describe why in writing within 24 hours, and that decision must be reviewed every 30 days.
The California Department of Developmental Services publishes a Rights of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Handout. It’s available in English, Spanish, Armenian, Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.