The History of Disability Rights NJ
Firmly rooted in the disability civil rights movement that came out of the 1960’s, Disability Rights New
Jersey celebrates more than 25 years as the designated Protection and Advocacy agency for the State
of New Jersey. Charged by Congress to protect and advocate for the human, civil, and legal rights of
people with disabilities, Disability Rights NJ traces our origins to the Department of the Public Advocate
where the federal authority first vested in New Jersey.
In 1994, upon the dissolution of the Public Advocate, we were designated the state’s Protection and
Advocacy agency under the name “New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc.” – an independent, non-profit
organization. Then, in 2008, we changed our name to Disability Rights New Jersey to better reflect our
strength as advocates who wield the power of law to advance the human, civil, and legal rights of
individuals with disabilities.
Our Renewed Vision:
Advancing Justice, Advocating Inclusion
After a quarter century of service to the state, Disability Rights NJ decided that it was an
appropriate time to embark on a process of self-reflection and discernment. We committed ourselves to
looking forward by looking back, reflecting on the origins of the federal Protection and Advocacy system
in order to take a fresh look about how to best carry out our mission going forward. We learned a great
deal about ourselves during this process, including:
- A Reaffirmation of Our Core Values: The original federal statute that guides our work – the Developmental Disability Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (the DD Act) – articulates the core values that drive our work.
- Disability is a natural part of the human experience.
- Individuals with disabilities have the right to live independently and exert control and choice over their own lives.
- They also have the right to fully participate in and contribute to their communities through full integration and inclusion.
- Our Reason for Being: Disability Rights NJ exists because Congress wanted to ensure that individuals with disabilities are protected from and have redress for abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violations of their human, civil, and legal rights.
- The Scope of Our Authority: Our authority as a Protection and Advocacy agency is unique and it is powerful. Accordingly, we are obliged to be good stewards of this responsibility, which means we must use it to the fullest measure of our ability for the benefit of and at the direction of people with disabilities.
Bearing these core principles in mind, our team of deeply committed professionals worked together to
develop our new vision, rooted in the power of law to promote social justice, diversity, equity, and
inclusion for individuals with disabilities.
To meet the challenge that this new vision demands, we re-organized the way we deliver our core
- Our dedicated Investigations and Monitoring Unit has expanded the established practice of monitoring the state-run facilities (developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals) to also include nursing homes, juvenile detention centers, psychiatric treatment facilities for youth, as well as home- and community-based settings like group homes and sheltered workshops.
- Our Legal Teams now provide legal representation to individuals with disabilities through five areas of expertise – Institutional Rights, Community Inclusion, Juvenile Justice, Special Education, and Employment.
- Our Outreach, Education, and Training Team is expanding our development of self-advocate expertise and skills through education and training, including our new Self-Advocacy Resource Center.
We also continue to provide services through our Richard West Assistive Technology Advocacy Center
and our Social Security Administration Representative Payee Program.
Our revised identity reflects the transformation of the agency. Among the changes you’ll notice are:
- A new logo that honors our roots, incorporating the original deep red hue into the Red Oak leaf, a symbol of endurance, integrity, and wisdom that is derived from New Jersey’s state tree. The color palette evokes New Jersey’s iconic shoreline, while also recalling the verdant meadows and mountains of the Garden State.
- Our new tagline – Advancing Justice, Advocating Inclusion – conveys our renewed vision into a succinct mandate that affirms our commitment toward a better tomorrow for the community we so proudly serve.
- An entirely new website created with our principal audience in mind – individuals with disabilities – for easy navigation and accessibility to the information and resources you seek, which also provides a visually compelling expression that is current with our role today and into the future.
- A new URL: disabilityrightsnj.org aligns with the Protection and Advocacy network around the country and clarifies our role at first impression.
- This new site also aims to be ADA compliant and accessible to all through the Recite Me toolbar, which allows you to customize our site to the way it works best for you, through support tools, styling, language translation and more.
It is our hope that you experience these changes as a reflection of our dedication to you, our work, and our ultimate goal of creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society for all New Jerseyans with disabilities.