What is the P&A System?
Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems are part of a nationwide network of Disability Rights Agencies which are mandated by Congress to provide advocacy services and legal representation on behalf of all persons with disabilities. Every state in the nation has a P&A dedicated to protecting the rights of people with disabilities. Disability Rights Arkansas is part of the protection and advocacy network.
When the Protection and Advocacy System first began, it primarily served people with developmental disabilities. Later, Congress expanded its mandate to serve all persons with physical or mental disabilities of any kind. Collectively, P&As are the largest provider of legal services to people with disabilities in the United States.
History of P&As
The Protection and Advocacy concept was initially triggered by a series of local television news broadcasts that Geraldo Rivera did for the ABC News affiliate in New York City in 1972. Rivera’s investigative reporting exposed abuse, neglect and lack of services and supports at Willowbrook, a state institution for people with intellectual and other disabilities on Staten Island. These broadcasts galvanized the state’s senior senator, Jacob Javits, to action, incorporating the first P&A program – Protection and Advocacy for People with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) – in 1975 in the renewal of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (DD) Act. The DD Act provided for the governor of each state to designate an agency to be the P&A and to ensure that the P&A was, and would remain, independent of any service provider. The initial focus of PADD and subsequent P&A statutes was to safeguard the well-being of individuals living in institutions and this remains a major focus of P&A activity today.
Disability Rights Arkansas is the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) authority for the State of Arkansas. This mandate became law on October 4, 1975, when the 94th Congress passed Public Law 94-103. In order to comply with Public Law 94-103, Governor David Pryor designated his office as the agency to administer the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. That designation was later expanded to include other disabilities, and in June of 1980 the agency became a private and independent nonprofit corporation, known as Advocacy Services, Incorporated. The agency changed its name in 1998 to Disability Rights Center, Incorporated, and in 2014 to Disability Rights Arkansas.
Our Work Today
P&As serve people with physical and mental disabilities in a variety of ways:
- Individual case representation
- Information and referral services
- Education and training
- Individual and class-action litigation
- Monitoring of correctional and mental health facilities
All P&A work is governed by the values of equity, meaningful choice and empowerment, and the presumption that people with disabilities are entitled to equal opportunities and full integration into society.
P&As promote these values for persons with disabilities in areas of employment, education, rehabilitation and community-based service. P&As also assure that persons with disabilities receive needed services in environments which are appropriate, culturally competent, humane and dignified.
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) which is based in Washington, DC, is the voluntary membership organization for P&As. NDRN facilitates coordination among its members, represents their interests before Congress and the Executive Branch of government, and provides extensive training and technical assistance services.