​What services do State Protection & Advocacy Agencies provide?

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 29, 2022 # Advocacy and Policy

National Disability Rights Network logoAlthough much has changed in recent decades, people living with disabilities can still face barriers to living a full and productive life. Sometimes they need additional help and support to overcome challenges.

State Protection & Advocacy agencies, or P&As, have authority under federal law to provide critical support for exposing abuse and neglect of people with disabilities and safeguarding individuals’ rights to live with dignity and self-determination.

“With so many resources available, it can be overwhelming and difficult to figure out where to start,” says Cindy Kolbe, a Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program mentor. She has been a lifelong disability advocate, even before her daughter sustained a C6-C7 spinal cord injury in a 2000 car accident. “Often, you need to prioritize which resources are most important, and these agencies can help guide you to the resources that are most helpful.”

P&As use a range of remedies to advocate for people of all ages with cognitive, mental and physical disabilities. Support can include information and referral, legal representation, technical assistance, short-term assistance, systemic advocacy, monitoring, and training.

P&A Programs

Within the P&A system, there are nine separate P&A programs:

  • Protection and Advocacy for the Developmentally Disabled (PADD)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA)
  • Client Assistance Program (CAP)
  • Rep Payee

While each of these programs has a designated mandate and legal authority, it may be easier to look at examples of the range of issues where P&As can assist eligible individuals with disabilities.

Areas of P&A Support

Understanding the specific range and focus of P&A agencies can be difficult since each state sets its own priorities as to how best to use its limited resources. Some of the services offered by P&As could include:

Legal Support – P&As can help traditionally unserved or underserved populations to navigate the legal system to achieve resolution. They can provide investigation, monitoring and technical assistance for negotiation, mediation, litigation, and administrative hearings.

Enforcement of Rights – P&As can provide guidance and legal support for enforcement of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, particularly regarding employment, college accessibility and access to community services and institutions. P&As may access and monitor facilities and records to ensure that people’s rights are protected.

Inclusive Education – P&As work to ensure that students with disabilities receive an appropriate education in an inclusive setting. They often help to resolve disputes between parents and school districts about placement and services and ensure that students receive appropriate vocational services and assistive technology for future employment outcomes.

Independent Living – P&As have also made great strides in helping people with disabilities find living arrangements that are the least restrictive possible by increasing the opportunities for individuals to make decisions for themselves about where and with whom they live.

Assistive Technology P&As can advocate for individuals in obtaining a wide range of assistive technology devices and services, such as custom and power wheelchairs, augmentative communication devices, adaptive computer equipment and software, low vision aids, and access ramps and lifts for the home. They work with numerous funding sources, including Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance companies, special education programs and state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

Employment Training – P&As can assist individuals with support in reaching employment goals by advocating for access to vocational services from a range of public and private agency providers. They also provide training and technical assistance to service providers, state legislators and other policymakers.

Voting Accessibility P&As can provide outreach and education through a voting access hotline or technical assistance line with information about how to register to vote and on disability-related accommodations to access a polling place.

Self-Advocacy and Awareness – P&As can conduct self-advocacy training and raise public awareness of legal and social issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.

It is important to note that the services provided by P&As are not limited to the examples listed above. P&As work to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to exercise their rights to make choices and become independent, integrated and productive, which may look different in different communities.

If you are experiencing a problem that may require the services of a P&A, contact the P&A agency in your state.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.