STUART, Fla. — A Treasure Coast man is fighting to help people with intellectual disabilities get their fair shot at a full, independent life.
Michael Lincoln is trying to gain support for a bill that would make it harder for someone to be put on a court-ordered guardianship without a judge first considering an option that does not strip them of their rights to get married, drive, and vote.
Lincoln said he has an intellectual disability, and grew up primarily in foster care.
When he was aging out of foster care, Lincoln said a St. Lucie County judge considered him incapacitated and put him under a court-ordered guardianship.
He lost his right to vote, get married, choose his job, choose where he wanted to live and make basic decisions for himself.
He was put in a group home where he said he felt trapped.
“I said enough is enough,” Lincoln said.
By being his own advocate and seeking out legal help from Disability Rights Florida, he regained his rights after more than 2 years and was taken out of the guardianship program.
Instead, he was allowed to be a part of Supported Decision Making.
“I was named the first person in Florida to get Supported Decision Making in the state,” Lincoln said.
That means he could choose the support network that would help him make big decisions and give him guidance and advice as needed.
He works closely with the nonprofit, Stand Up For Independence.
“Our mission is to teach advocacy in the community, to teach people they have the right to vote, to be in the community, go to church,” said Kimberly Martinez, an advisor for Stand Up For Independence.
It is made up of others with intellectual disabilities working together to support each other’s independence.
“We are independent,” said Amanda Baldwin, President of Stand Up For Independence.
“I also live independently, and we drive, and we have an 18-month-old baby,” said Stand Up For Independence Communications Coordinator, Erin Hyne.
Lincoln hosted a community education session Friday at the ARC of Martin Countyto continue spreading the word about Supported Decision Making. He’s working to gain more support for HB and 681 and SB 1010, which would require judges to consider Supported Decision Making before ordering someone to the guardianship program.
The bill died last year, but they hope that it might be successful this session.