The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit, membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for people with disabilities.
Combined, the P&A and CAP network comprises the largest provider of legally-based advocacy services to people with disabilities in America. The NDRN works through legal support, training, technical assistance, and legislative advocacy to create a society in which persons with disabilities find themselves with equal opportunity as well as the ability to participate fully through exercising both choice and self-determination.
The NDRN serves people who experience a wide range of disabilities, to include persons with mental, cognitive, sensory, and physical disabilities. The organization serves people with disabilities by advocating for basic rights, and guarding against abuse. The NDRN works to ensure accountability in education, employment, health care, housing transportation and within both the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
According to the National Disability Rights Network, the very concept of Protection and Advocacy was triggered by a series of local television news broadcasts, ones that Geraldo Rivera did for the ABC News affiliate in New York City. Mr. Rivera's investigative reporting exposed neglect, abuse, and a lack of programming at, 'Willowbrook,' a state institution for people with developmental disabilities on Staten Island. The broadcasts prompted action on the part of state senior senator Jacob Javitts, incorporating a protection and advocacy system in the renewal of federal developmental disabilities legislation enacted in the year 1975. The mandate was drawn more broadly in the statute; protection and advocacy systems were originally intended to protect people housed in facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities, protecting and advocating for them, and preventing abuse and neglect.
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) was previously known as the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems (NAPAS). The NDRN was established in the year 1980 after the leadership of the state protection and advocacy realized the need for representation in Washington on behalf of their programs. The year 1984 found the NDRN successfully working to expand the P&A System with the addition of the Client Assistance Program (CAP). CAP became mandated in every state, providing advocacy services to people of state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies. The same year Congress once again renewed the developmental disabilities statute giving strength to P&A authority to intercede where matters of inappropriate institutional care are concerned.
By the year 1986, Congress had designated P&A Systems to provide a full-range of advocacy services to people with forms of mental health disabilities (PAIMI). Over the course of only ten years, federal support for advocacy on the behalf of people with disabilities had expanded from a narrow focus on institutional care provided to people in facilities serving people with developmental disabilities, to include advocacy services for people with forms of mental illnesses, as well as people participating in vocational rehabilitation agencies. In many states, the federally funded program attracted other state, local and private support to extend its services to people who experience disabilities despite the nature or severity of the disability they experience. Over the same decade NDRN became a force for positive change in the national disability community.
The NDRN continued to use subsequent reauthorizations of its programs, finding new opportunities to expand the eligibility and resources of the P&A program. In the year 1993, the Rehabilitation act was reauthorized and the Protection and Advocacy System for Individual Rights (PAIR) was authorized. In 1994, Congress authorized the Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) program. The PAAT program provides legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities related to assistive technology issues. The year 1999 found an effort being launched by the disability community to pass the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Implementation Act (TWWIIA). The act assists beneficiaries of Social Security, authorizing the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program, which assists people with disabilities who receive SSI or SSDI benefits and desire to work.
The Children's Health Act of 2000 included to important additions to the P&A System. The first is the PAIMI program, which was expanded to cover people with mental illness in the community. The second was Congressional authorization of a new P&A program for people with traumatic brain injury (PATBI). The year 2002 brought the creation of the Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) program, when Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). PAVA enables P&A to secure election access for a wide range of people with disabilities, to include - yet not limited to, people with sensory, mental and physical disabilities.
The NDRN continues to work for the rights of people with disabilities in America today. Through the reports they produce, information regarding the experiences of people with disabilities are presented.
From: P&A Special Report, NDRN Responds to Deadly Restraint and Seclusion' September, 2000
"They died pinned down on the floor by hospital aides until the breath of life was crushed from their lungs. They died strapped to beds and chairs with thick leather belts...those who died were disproportionately young. They entered our health care system as troubled children. They left in coffins." from: Weiss, "Deadly Restraint," Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), 11 October 1998, p.1. A five-part investigative series that exposed a pattern of deaths in institutions nationwide resulting from the misuse of restraint and seclusion.
Another report from the NDRN presents the case of a young girl named Ashley: Growth Attenuation and Sterilization Procedures - The Ashley Treatment
"Ashley is a girl with developmental disabilities who was six years old at the time the interventions began. The intervention included surgical removal of her uterus and breast buds, as well as high-dosage hormone therapy to limit her growth and physical sexual development. The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that when a parent or anyone else seeks to sterilize an incompetent individual with a developmental disability, the individual must be afforded due process and a multi-factored test must be proven by clear and convincing evidence before a court can authorize the sterilization."
Curt Decker, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network, has issued a statement applauding President Obama's proclamation of the, 'Year of Community Living,' yet descries the Department of Justice's continued support of segregation of person's with disabilities. Mr. Decker states that the proclamation of the, 'Year of Community Living,' on the part of President Obama, as well as the follow-up of specific program on the part of the Department of Health and Human Services, are important steps towards the full integration of people with disabilities into the community. However, across the Washington Mall at the Department of Justice (DOJ), actions on the part of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division continue to force states to funnel millions of state dollars into maintaining outmoded, discriminatory, and dangerous facilities that will warehouse people with disabilities for generations to come. The Department of Justice is continuing to carry out Bush Administration practices of forcing states to, 'fix up' facilities that many states have abandoned as unworkable and unsafe for people with disabilities to live in - www.napas.org