Self-Determination & Self-Direction

In the 2000s, a collaborative group of statewide disability advocacy organizations formed to focus on advancing self-determination for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. The choices offered individuals and families in employment, day, and residential areas were narrow, tended not to leverage community relationships, and lacked flexibility and personalization. In 2008, joined by four additional organizations, we named our collaboration the Mass Alliance for 21st Century Policy or “MA21”.

The Arc is proud to be part of MA21.  Please go to to join the advocacy efforts of MA21 to make sure DDS Self-Direction follows the Real Lives Law.

The Massachusetts Alliance for 21st Century Disability Policy (MA21) was formed in 2007 to protect the rightof people with disabilities to self-direct, and through its efforts helped pass the Real Lives Law in 2014.

MA21 is a partnership of self-advocates, family members, other stakeholders and disability advocacyorganizations, including:

MA21 alliance developed a number of trainings and products. It developed a policy booklet, “Implementing a 21st Century Disability Policy” promoting our guiding principles and strategies to achieve a society that views disability as natural, where self-direction is available to all individuals and families, and supports needed to live integrated lives are provided. You can find the MA21 policy booklet here. The Arc developed a new version of “Tools for Tomorrow”, a planning tool that uses “Charting the LifeCourse.” Here is another tool for students with disabilities developed by NESCA.

One area of MA21 policy advocacy is for more flexibility utilizing service funds. Related to more flexible funding was MA21 advocacy for passage of the Real Lives bill. In 2014 Real Lives was passed, placing the choice to self-direct into law and ensuring its permanence. Currently MA21 is focused on educating individuals and families about the option to self-direct and identifying any barriers to implementation.

To learn more about self-direction in Massachusetts, see the resources below. And stay tuned to this page for updates on self-determination and self-direction.

MA 21 Partners:  The Arc of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, Mass Advocates Standing Strong, Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, Federation for Children with Special Needs, Disability Law Center, Mass Families Organizing for Change, and the Massachusetts Sibling Support Network.