Protection & Advocacy (P & A) Systems

Why the Program is Needed

The P&A program was established after severe legal and human rights violations of people in institutions were exposed in the 1970s. Today, while those egregious conditions no longer exist, there are still significant infringements on the rights of people with disabilities. They experience abuse and neglect, discrimination in employment and housing, inappropriate educational services, and too frequently must wait years for necessary services and supports.

What it Does

The P&A program requires the governor to designate a system in the State to empower, protect, and advocate on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities.  A formula grant is allotted based on population. These agencies pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies under all applicable federal and state laws to protect and advocate the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities. Col­lectively, the P&A network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with dis­abilities in the United States. The federally mandated P&As serve individuals with a wide range of disabili­ties by guarding against abuse; advocating basic rights; and ensuring accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The governing boards of these agencies are mandated by federal law to consist of a majority of people with developmental disabilities or family members, advocates, guardians, or authorized representatives of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Authorizing Legislation

The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (42 U.S.C. 15041)

Recent Funding

Please see the table on the Funding for Federal Disability-related Programs page.

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