The addition of one simple word can change the meaning of a sentence significantly — just consider ADEC’s mission statement.

ADEC’s Board of Directors recently approved a refreshed mission statement that adds a single word: Informed.

“ADEC proudly advocates for and serves people with developmental and intellectual disabilities so they live lives full of informed choice and possibility.”

It is a subtle but meaningful change.

At ADEC, we have always been committed to providing choices to the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve. We believe they should have a say in everything from where they live to how they spend their free time in the evening.

But choice should be more than offering a list of options and simply saying “pick one.” Informed choice is the practice of offering accurate and complete information through ongoing person-centered conversations. Informed choice means ensuring the individual understands the options as well as the risks and benefits of any given decision.

“The addition to our mission statement truly represents what we do ADEC,” said Donna Belusar, ADEC’s CEO and president. “We are dedicated to helping those we serve by teaching, informing, helping and letting them know they have the same rights and choices as anyone else. We will do everything we can to inform them of those rights and choices.”

ADEC’s residential staff offer informed choices to the people they serve every day. When residents go out to dinner, their staff go over the menu in detail with individuals with dietary restrictions to let them know the best and worst options for their medical condition.

Informed choice means that when ADEC’s guardian advocates — professionals who work with individuals to guide them through important medical, financial and legal situations — approach a decision, they spend time making sure the individual fully understands all options and ramifications of every decision. When individuals consider undergoing a medical procedure, ADEC’s guardian advocates help them make an informed choice by explaining the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Informed choice means that when individuals served through ADEC’s community employment program receive a job offer, their job coaches talk through important information before the offer is accepted or declined. They help the individuals they serve determine whether the pay will work with their other benefits and whether the workplace culture is the right fit.

ADEC’s transition team offers informed choice to families as their children with disabilities age out of the public school system when they turn 22 and need to make an important decision: What comes next? ADEC professionals walk through the many options — from finding a job in the community to attending one of ADEC’s five day service programs — to find the best fit for each individual.

“The refreshed mission statement demonstrates how we uphold the rights of those with disabilities and provide them information to better their lives by making informed choices,” Belusar said.