Rights & Responsibilities

Each person with a developmental disability has the same rights, protections, and responsibilities as all other persons under the laws and the Constitution of the state of California, and under the laws and Constitution of the United States. Unless otherwise restricted by law, these rights may be exercised at will by any person with a developmental disability. These rights include, but are not limited to:

I. Access Rights

  • A right to treatment and habilitation services. Treatment and habilitation services shall foster the developmental potential of the person. Such services shall protect the personal liberty of the individual and shall be provided under conditions which are the least restrictive necessary to achieve the purposes of treatment.
  • A right to dignity, privacy, and humane care.
  • A right to participate in an appropriate program of publicly-supported education, regardless of the degree of handicap.
  • A right to religious freedom and practice, including the right to attend services or to refuse attendance, to participate in worship or not to participate in worship.
  • A right to prompt and appropriate medical care and treatment.
  • A right to social interaction and participation in community activities.
  • A right to physical exercise and recreational opportunities.
  • A right to be free from harm, including unnecessary physical restraint, or isolation, excessive medication, abuse or neglect. Medication shall not be used as punishment, for convenience of staff, as a substitute for program, or in quantities that interfere with the treatment program.
  • A right to be free from hazardous procedures.
  • A right to advocacy services, as provided by law, to protect and assert the civil, legal, and service rights to which any person with a developmental disability is entitled.
  • A right to be free from discrimination by exclusion from participation in, or denial of the benefits of, any program or activity which receives public funds solely by reason of being a person with a developmental disability.
  • A right of access to the courts for purposes including, but not limited to the following:
    • To protect or assert any right to which any person with a developmental disability is entitled;
    • To question a treatment decision affecting such rights, once the administrative remedies provided by law, if any, have been exhausted;
    • To inquire into the terms and conditions of placement in any community care or health facility, or state hospital, by way of a writ of habeas corpus, and To contest a guardianship or conservatorship, its terms, and/or the individual or entity appointed as guardian or conservator.

II. Personal Rights

Each person with a developmental disability who has been admitted or committed to a state hospital, community care facility, or health facility shall have rights which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • To keep and be allowed to spend one’s own money for personal and incidental needs.
  •  To keep and wear one’s own clothing.
  • To keep and use one’s own personal possessions, including toilet articles.
  • To have access to individual storage space for one’s private use.
  • To see visitors each day.
  • To have reasonable access to telephones, both to make and receive confidential calls, and to have calls made for one upon request.
  • To mail and receive unopened correspondence and to have ready access to letter-writing materials, including sufficient postage in the form of United States postal stamps.
  • To refuse electroconvulsive therapy (“ECT”).
  • To refuse behavior modification techniques which cause pain or trauma.
  • To refuse psychosurgery. Psychosurgery means those operations currently referred to as lobotomy, psychiatric surgery, and behavioral surgery and all other forms of brain surgery if the surgery is performed for any of the following purposes:
    • Modification or control of thoughts, feelings, actions, or behavior rather than treatment of a known and diagnosed physical disease of the brain.
    • Modification of normal brain function or normal brain tissue in order to control thoughts, feelings, actions, or behavior.
    • Treatment of abnormal brain function or abnormal brain tissue in order to modify thoughts, feelings, actions, or behavior when the abnormality is not an established cause for those thought, feelings, actions, or behavior.
    • (k) Other rights as specified by administrative regulations of any federal, state, or local agency.
      Authority: Section 11152, Government Code.
      Reference: Sections 4423, 4473, 4503 and 4504, Welfare and Institutions Code.

III. Denial of Rights for “Good Cause”

Denial of Rights for “Good Cause” by a Licensed Residential FacilityResidents of facilities, licensed by the State of California to serve persons with developmental disabilities may have specific rights denied them by the licensee. These specific rights may be denied only under the following conditions:
The licensee or the licensee’s designee may, for “GOOD CAUSE” , deny a resident any of the rights listed under Personal Rights (a) through (g) inclusive. No other right listed may be denied unless authorized by the court system.
“GOOD CAUSE” exists only when the licensee makes an explicit finding that:

  • The exercise of the specific right sought to be denied would be injurious to the individual otherwise entitled to exercise it; or
  • There is evidence that the specific right sought to be denied if exercised by that individual, would seriously infringe on the rights of others; or
  • The institution or facility would suffer serious damage to the physical plant if the specific right is not denied; and,
  • There is no less restrictive means of protecting the specific interest listed in (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection.

The reason used to justify the denial for good cause of any right must be related to the specific right denied. A right shall not be withheld or denied as a punitive measure, nor shall any right be considered a privilege to be earned.
A treatment modality, approach or plan shall not constitute good cause for the denial of any right specified in this subchapter.

At the time any good cause denial commences, the person who is being denied any right shall be informed of the right to:

  • Appeal the basis for the denial via the complaint procedure or the Fair Hearing Process provided in Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 4700-4725.
  • Refuse to submit to the denial of right for good cause and vacate the facility (if resident is an individual who is lawfully entitled to depart the facility at will.

Authority: Section 11152, Government Code; and Section 4416, Welfare and Institutions Code.
Reference: Sections 4503, 4504 and 4648(b), Welfare and Institutions Code.

IV. Complaint Procedure

A complaint procedure is available for consumers or representatives acting for a consumer who believe a right to which the consumer is entitled has been abused, punitively withheld, or improperly or unreasonably denied by a regional center, developmental center, or service provider. Initial referral of any complaint shall be to the director of the regional center. If the consumer resides in a state developmental center, the complaint shall be made to the director of the state developmental center. The director shall, within 20 days, investigate the complaint and send a written proposed resolution. If the complaint is not resolved, additional administrative procedures are available. Service coordinators advocate for the rights of consumers. Advocacy has many definitions, but certainly it requires an understanding and knowledge of the rights of all citizens, the ability to encourage and support implementation of these rights in any setting, and the willingness to intervene in an appropriate manner when necessary.