Viviana Bonilla López

  • Hosted by Disability Rights Florida
  • Sponsored by The Florida Bar Foundation
  • Service location Miami, Florida
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Disability Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Viviana protected and restored the civil rights of people with disabilities by expanding Supported Decision-Making as an alternative to guardianship in the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida and throughout the state.

Everyone deserves to make decisions about their own lives. Too often, people with disabilities lose their rights to make decisions because families, lawyers, and judges do not see an alternative to guardianship. Guardianship is a legal tool that strips a person of part or all of their civil rights—to vote, marry, work, contract, consent to treatment, sue and defend lawsuits, choose a home, choose friends, and manage money or property—and lets another exercise them on their behalf. Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is a person-centered alternative to guardianship that allows people with disabilities to keep their rights and make their own decisions with the support of people they trust.
Since at least the fiscal year 2000-2001, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, which serves Miami-Dade County, has had the most guardianship cases filed of all the judicial circuits in Florida. Viviana’s project was the first in the state to expand awareness and implementation of SDM through simultaneous litigation, education, policy advocacy, and coalition-building.

Viviana has loved ones with mental health diagnoses and relates to the experiences of the families she works with. Her years of experience in the mental health and disability field as a student organizer, intern, volunteer, research assistant, journalist, advocate, and an advisor to advocacy organizations made her the right person for this project.

Fellowship Highlights

During her two-year Fellowship period, Viviana:

  • Provided legal advice, technical assistance, and/or representation to over 130 people with disabilities
  • Won the second and third cases in Florida where a person terminated their guardianship and obtained the full restoration of their rights using Supported Decision-Making
  • Presented on SDM to over 2,273 people, including people with disabilities, parents and caregivers, advocates, attorneys, guardians, judges, and judicial staff through community presentations hosted by partner organizations, conferences, continuing legal education courses hosted by the American Bar Association, and continuing judicial education courses hosted by the Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator
  • Founded the SDM4FL Coalition and co-chairs the coalition alongside Michael Lincoln-McCreight, the first person in Florida to terminate his guardianship using SDM. The coalition includes 12 disability advocacy organizations and over 10 individual members who are persons with disabilities, former clients and their loved ones, or have been directly impacted by the guardianship system (learn more about the coalition at
  • Oversaw the community-led drafting of an SDM bill introduced in the 2022 Legislative Session as Senate Bill 1010 and House Bill 681. The SDM4FL coalition is currently working on negotiating amendments and re-introducing the bill in the 2022 Legislative Session.



Port St. Lucie man becomes champion for disability rights after winning landmark case

The Family Cafe Episode 6: Supported Decision Making with I Decide Florida

Episode 24: SDM4FL: Supported Decision-Making in 2021

Making My Own Decisions Is Important to Me

Stand with people with disabilities and their loved ones.

Advancing the Rights of People with Disabilities

Autism resulted in his rights being stripped away. He just won them back

Protecting the Right to Decide: Supported Decision-Making in Florida

A man with autism lost his right to vote or buy a home. He’s fighting to reclaim them

What happened to Britney Spears also happened to me — in Florida | Opinion

The Horror of an Unwanted Conservatorship, According to People Who Lived It

Luchan para que la “toma de decisiones con apoyo” sea una alternativa a la ley de tutelaje en Florida

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