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Protecting Rights and Preventing Abuse of People with Disabilities

ACL’s efforts with these programs aim to build a society where the rights of people with disabilities are protected, and they live free from abuse and neglect.

For background on this issue, see the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide: Crime and Victimization Fact Sheets (2018): Crimes Against People with Disabilities.

ACL’s Administration on Disabilities (AoD) implements these efforts through several programs described below.

State Protection and Advocacy Systems

Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) work at the state level to protect individuals with disabilities by empowering them and advocating on their behalf. There are 57 P&As in the U.S. and its territories. Each operates independently, and may partner with agencies that provide other services.

Along with the other AoD grantees, P&As are dedicated to the ongoing fight for the personal and civil rights of individuals with disabilities. P&As provide legal support to traditionally unserved or underserved populations to help them navigate the legal system to achieve resolution and encourage systems change. P&As ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to exercise their rights to make choices, contribute to society, and live independently.

View more detailed information about the P&A programs.

Living Well in the Community

During the last two decades, the number of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) living in community settings and receiving home- and community-based services (HCBS) increased dramatically. While this led to better outcomes, including people with I/DD making more of their own choices and being a part of the community, there are great variations in the accessibility of quality HCBS across the country.

In 2017 and 2018 ACL awarded Living Well grants to help develop and test model approaches for enhancing the quality, effectiveness, and monitoring HCBS for people with developmental disabilities. These Model Approaches for Living Well grants, awarded as Projects of National Significance by ACL’s AoD, are focused on building the capacity of HCBS systems and enhancing community monitoring to prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

In 2018, ACL funded a cross-site evaluation of all eight grantees from cohorts one and two. Each grantee has designed one or more models integrating community monitoring and capacity building with the goal of enhancing health, safety, integration, and independence of individuals with I/DD living in the community. The cross-site evaluation of the Living Well grants focused on eight key features. 

Learn more about the grants, evaluation, and resulting briefs.

Alternatives to Guardianship Youth Resource Center

ACL awarded a cooperative agreement in 2020 to the University of Massachusetts Boston to implement a national Alternatives to Guardianship Youth Resource Center. The Alternatives to Guardianship is a new initiative focused on diverting high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) away from guardianship to supported decision making (SDM), which allows them to make decisions for themselves and choose the level of support they want from people and organizations they trust.

The Institute of Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston and its partners will work to establish the Center for Youth Voice, Youth Choice on Alternatives to Guardianship (CYVYC) to increase the use of guardianship alternatives by youth with I/DD by conducting research, creating a sustainable model for capacity building and resource dissemination, and forming a replicable Youth Ambassadors Program (YAS) that trains youth with I/DD in leadership development and mentoring skills. YAS participants will serve as mentors to other youth with I/DD and their parents or guardians and is a key component of the resource center.

CYVYC partners include legal advocacy organizations, The Center for Public Representation, Georgia Advocacy Office, and consultants from the Harvard Law School Project, national self-advocacy organization Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, and systems change experts Human Services Research Institute, as well as other subject matter experts including educators, parents, and advocates.

In 2022, the Center on Youth Voice, Youth Choice launched a new website featuring:

This initiative is funded under Projects of National Significance, which focus on the most pressing issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and their families. Through these projects, ACL supports the development of national and state policy and awards grants and contracts that enhance the independence, productivity, inclusion, and integration of people with developmental disabilities.

Other Related Programs


Last modified on 04/29/2024

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