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Protection & Advocacy Systems

Together, Protection & Advocacy agencies (P&As) comprise the nation's largest provider of legally-based advocacy services for people with disabilities. P&As have the legal authority to:

  • Investigate suspected abuse or neglect and seek justice for victims and their families.
  • Have access to records and facilities necessary to investigate abuse or neglect or to monitor the treatment and safety of residents.
  • Pursue litigation and all other appropriate remedies under federal, state, and local law.
  • Provide information and referrals regarding entitlements to services and other legal rights.
  • Educate policymakers on needed reforms to disability-related laws and services.

Beyond Litigation

While their focus is most often legal, P&As also engage in a range of other efforts to promote the rights of individuals with disabilities. They often provide information and referrals, as well as training and technical assistance to service providers, state legislators, and other policymakers. They also conduct self-advocacy training and raise public awareness of legal and social issues affecting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Working Toward Inclusive Education and Independent Living

P&As provide substantial advocacy and legal services on education issues, and work to ensure that students receive an appropriate education in an inclusive setting.

P&As have also made great strides in increasing the opportunities for individuals with disabilities to make decisions for themselves about where and with whom they live.

Olmstead and Other Cases

P&As have been involved in a significant number of landmark cases and work closely with other entities, especially State Councils on Developmental Disabilities and University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service. P&As work to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C., which requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities, and to ensure that they receive services in the most integrated setting possible.

Find Your State P&A Agency.

ACL administers the four Protection & Advocacy programs described below. 

Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD)

Under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and the Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act), each state and territory must have a protection and advocacy system (P&A) designated by the state’s governor. The DD Act and other authorizing statutes give the P&A authority to advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities. The DD Act states that each P&A must have the authority to “pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies or approaches to ensure the protection of, and advocacy for, the rights of such individuals within the state." 42 U.S.C. 15043. P&As use a range of remedies to advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities, including self-advocacy assistance, negotiation, and litigation.

Under the DD Act, P&As also have the authority to investigate abuse and neglect in any setting where a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities receives services. With this authority, they may access and monitor both facilities and records to ensure that people’s rights are protected. P&A authorities are critical to exposing abuse and neglect of people will disabilities and safeguarding individuals’ right to live with dignity and self-determination.

PADD Outcome Data Tables

The DD Act requires AoD grantees to report annually on progress achieved through advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change activities.

P&As, using their annual Program Performance Report (PPR), submit data to AoD. The following tables provide select data for each state/territorial P&A as well as for the nation.

Report Title


 Clients Served

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

 Clients by Age

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

 Clients by Race and Ethnicity

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

 Clients’ Living Conditions

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

 Reasons for Closing Cases

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

 Intervention Strategies

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

 Problem Areas/Complaints of Clients Served

2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Frequently Asked Questions: PADD Data Collection Methodology

What is a State Protection and Advocacy System (P&A)?

Federally mandated in each 57 states and territories (see the Native American Disability Law Center), P&As provide protection of the rights of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities through legally based advocacy. Its functions are to enable individuals to become independent, productive, integrated, and included into their communities.

Who does a P&A serve?

A P&A provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities based on several factors: population, financial need, and need for services (as determined by discrimination against an individual or denied services).

You must meet three criteria to be served by a P&A:

1. An individual must be eligible for P&A program services. You must refer to the program specific authorizing legislation for eligibility criteria.

2. The P&A has opened a case file, which includes at least your name, address, age, race, disability, signed release of information form (if appropriate), the individual’s issues of concern, and the action taken by the agency.

3. The P&A provided at least one “significant service,” such as a supervised referral that allows follow-up to assure that the referral was appropriate and completed; or the provision of any allowable service beyond I&R services, as defined above.

How can I contact a P&A?

There is a P&A System in each state and territory in the U.S. Find yours at this page.

What type of services does a P&A provide?

The P&A serves short-term assistant, investigation/monitoring/technical assistant in self-advocacy, negotiation, mediation, litigation, and administrative hearings.

How does AoD collect data from P&As?

All 57 P&A submit an annual program performance report to AoD. Data from those reports are compiled and made available at AoD.

Does AoD collect information about the people served by a P&A?

No. AoD does not collect any individualized information about people served by the P&As. Data collected is only a summary of groups served by P&As, with no personally identifiable information included.

What are the main components of the program performance report (PPR) from where this data is compiled?

The main components are:

1. Summary data of people served (by age groups, ethnicity, and racial backgrounds)

2. Living conditions of people served

3. Outcomes for people served

4. Intervention strategies used in addressing complaints

5. Reason for closing cases

6. Outcome of P&As goals and objectives

What does AoD do with this data once it is collected?

Besides providing a summary of achievements of P&As, the compiled data is used in AoD’s bi-annual report to Congress and the President, reporting Government Performance and Results Act of 2010 outcomes.

Other PADD Resources


Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT)

Assistive Technology Act of 1998 as amended

This program provides protection and advocacy services to assist individuals of all ages with disabilities in the acquisition, utilization, or maintenance of assistive technology services or devices. ACL provides formula grants to P&As established under the DD Act.

Grantees provide information, advocacy, representation, training, technical assistance, and general guidance to increase access to and provision of assistive technology devices and services. The emphasis is on consumer advocacy and capacity-building through P&As in the states.

Annual Reports

The PAAT Program: Annual Report describes the activities and outcomes of the PAAT Program during each fiscal year. It uses data collected through a Program Performance Report (PPR) form approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).


Ophelia McLain, DHA

Program Manager – Administration on Disabilities

Office: 202-795-7401


Protection & Advocacy for Voting Accessibility (PAVA)

Help America Vote Act (HAVA) programs are designed to establish and improve participation in the election process for individuals with the full range of disabilities. Signed into law on October 29, 2002, HAVA assigns responsibility for the administration of the law’s disability provisions (sections 261 and 291) to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who delegated the responsibility to the AoD. Currently, funding is awarded to eligible Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) under section 291 as well as entities providing training and technical assistance to P&As. P&As assist state and other government entities by surveying polling places, identifying potential modifications to make specific polling places accessible, and developing criteria for identifying accessible polling places.

Ensuring Full Participation in the Electoral Process

In each eligible state and territory, P&As work to ensure that individuals with disabilities can participate in every step of the voting process. P&As educate individuals about voter registration and their voting rights, provide voter registration opportunities, and help individuals access the polls on election day. Individuals interested in filing complaints may also be assisted and represented by the P&As.

Providing Training and Technical Assistance to P&As

Eligible nonprofit organizations receive discretionary grants to assist P&As in developing proficiency in the use of voting systems and technologies for individuals with disabilities and demonstrating and evaluating the use of such systems and technologies. P&As also receive training and technical assistance for providing non-visual access in the voting process. Grants are authorized under section 291 of HAVA as a seven percent set-aside of the total funding for P&As. After receiving training and technical assistance, P&As may inform others on the availability of accessible voting equipment and its use.

Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)

Individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often faced with improper diagnosis, inability to access support or rehabilitation services, institutional segregation, unemployment, and being forced to navigate complicated and cumbersome service and support systems.

The goals of the federal TBI Program focus on helping state and local agencies develop resources so that all individuals with TBI and their families will have accessible, available, acceptable, and appropriate services and supports. The Protection and Advocacy (P&A) TBI Grant Program is one way the federal TBI Program advances these goals.

The P&A TBI program is a formula grant that provides funding for the 57 P&As in the U.S. and its territories as well as the Native American Protection and Advocacy Project to assess their state/territory P&A Systems' responsiveness to TBI issues and provide advocacy support to individuals with TBI and their families.

All P&As maintain a presence in facilities that care for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and other disabilities, where they monitor, investigate, and attempt to remedy adverse conditions and situations. They devote considerable resources to ensuring full access to inclusive educational programs, financial entitlement programs (e.g., Medicaid and Social Security), healthcare, accessible housing, and productive employment opportunities; and they respond to allegations of abuse and neglect.

State P&A Technical Assistance

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Through training and technical assistance, legal support, and legislative advocacy, NDRN works to create a society in which people with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and can fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination.  

820 First Street, Suite 740

Washington, D.C. 20002

Phone: (202) 408-9514

Fax: (202) 408-9520

TTY: (202) 408-9521

The Training and Advocacy Support Center (TASC) is implemented under contract by NDRN.


Last modified on 07/06/2023

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