The History of P&As
History of the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) network and Disability Rights New Jersey:
In 1972, the ABC News affiliate in New York City documented graphic conditions of abuse and neglect of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, particularly those residing in institutions. The investigative reporting broadcasts exposed abuse, neglect and lack of services and supports at Willowbrook, a state institution for people with intellectual and other disabilities in New York.
Congress passed the Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights Act (The DD Act). The DD Act requires each state and territory to establish a Protection and Advocacy system for people with developmental disabilities in their jurisdiction. The PADD (Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities) protects the legal and civil rights of individuals with developmental disabilities.
In response to the need for a comprehensive advocacy monitoring program and to represent people who were clients of the vocational rehabilitation system, Congress established the Client Assistance Program (CAP) established in amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. CAP advocates for and protects the rights of individuals with disabilities who are seeking or receiving rehabilitation services.
Congress created the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) program. Congress acted in response to the 1984 investigation by Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker and his staff into the conditions in hospitals for people with mental illness. They discovered conditions of abuse and neglect and concluded that individuals with mental illness did not have access to advocacy services provided to individuals with other disabilities. The purpose of the PAIMI program is to protect and advocate for the rights of persons with significant mental illness, to monitor conditions in facilities that serve them, and to investigate reports of abuse and neglect. PAIMI originally only covered individuals in a hospital setting.
Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which outlaws discrimination against people with disabilities at work, in places of public accommodation, and in government programs.
To address the needs of people with disabilities who were not eligible for the PADD, PAIMI, or CAP programs, Congress established Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR) as a national program under the Rehabilitation Act. PAIR expanded P&A activities to cover people with physical disabilities, mental health conditions not covered by PAIMI, disabling medical conditions, and other types of disability.
New Jersey’s P&A agency was incorporated in 1994 as New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (NJP&A), a private non-profit operating independently from state government. NJP&A continued to carry the designation of New Jersey’s Protection and Advocacy system for people with disabilities. Until this shift, the P&A had been part of state government under the authority of the Governor and state legislature.
Congress created Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI). The PATBI program ensures that individuals with TBI and their families have access to: information, referrals, and advice; individual and family advocacy; legal representation; and specific assistance in self-advocacy.
With passage of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, Congress created the Assistive Technology Advocacy Center (ATAC) program. NJ Protection and Advocacy housed New Jersey’s federally funded ATAC Project. While the core services of ATAC have changed over the years, the goal of the center has always been to ensure that New Jersey residents with disabilities know about Assistive Technology devices and services that can increase independence.
The PABSS (Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security) is a federally funded program that was established under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act of 1999. The Act authorizes the Social Security Administration (SSA) to fund each state’s Protection and Advocacy system to provide work incentive assistance to SSDI and SSI beneficiaries who seek vocational rehabilitation, employment, and other support services to secure, retain, or regain employment.
In voting reforms following the extremely close presidential election in 2000, Congress created the Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access (PAVA) program. PAVA advocates for accessibility at polling places and ensures that people with disabilities can exercise their right to vote.
Congress expanded the coverage of the PAIMI program to include people living in home and community-based settings.
With reauthorization of the Assistive Technology Act, Congress set up the Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology program (PAAT) to advocate for access to assistive technology. Congress also refocused ATAC activities to several key initiatives: Device Demonstration, Loans and Reutilization. Along with these core initiatives, ATAC continues to build partnerships with other state agencies and raise public awareness of the power of Assistive Technology to increase independence.
New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc. changed its name to Disability Rights New Jersey. The name change recognized our mission to advancing the rights of people with disabilities, not just protecting from abuse and neglect.
Congress established the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries with Representative Payees (PABRP) program under the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018. A 2009 exposé revealed rampant financial exploitation of people with disabilities on a turkey farm in Iowa. The reports highlighted a service provider that forced individuals with intellectual disabilities to work for sub-minimum wage in poor housing. On top of bad working conditions and pay, the provider used the Social Security Representative Payee system to take workers’ Social Security benefits. The Act authorizes the Social Security Administration (SSA) to fund each state’s protection and advocacy system to conduct reviews of representative payees under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.