About P&As


NARRATOR: All people deserve basic human rights. That's why Congress created a system of protection and advocacy agencies, also known as P&As to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, because in the past, they have not been treated equally.

For most to the 20th century, the phrase "Out of sight, out of mind" was more than just a popular saying. It was the means for dealing with an unwanted segment of the population. People with disabilities were either segregated from society, locked away in institutions, or, remained isolated at home with absolutely no services, not even an education. They [people with disabilities] were abused, neglected, and forgotten.

Then, in 1973, ABC news cameras exposed the filthy living conditions and poor treatment inside Staten Island's Willowbrook School, which housed people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It shocked the nation.

REPORTER: The doctor had warned me that it would be bad. It was horrible.

NARRATOR: Finally, in 1975, Congress acted. They mandated that every US state and territory have an official protection and advocacy agency. P&As go by many names, but their mission is the same: To protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.

Together, the P&As form the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), taking on issues affecting people with all kinds of disabilities. No other organizations have the sweeping access authority that P&As have. They go anywhere services for people with disabilities are provided, from schools to hospitals, to prisons and jails, to monitor conditions and listen to concerns. They make sure people with disabilities are treated equally, with dignity and respect, and never have to face the same kind of mistreatment they saw at Willowbrook.

P&As ask the public for input on which issues to take on in their communities. P&As can fight against abuse and neglect in residential services, to end exploitation at work, for fair treatment in the criminal justice system, for equal access to public education and voting, for accessible communities and services, and assistive technologies, and countless other issues. That's the protection and advocacy system.

Click here to find the P&A for your state or territory, and subscribe for more videos from the P&A network at Rooted in Rights.


P&A Programs

Disability Rights North Carolina covers seven separate P&A programs:

PAIDD (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities). PAIDD is the first P&A program, created by the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975. P&A agencies are required by the Act to pursue legal, administrative and other appropriate remedies to protect and advocate for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities under all applicable federal and state laws.

PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness). The PAIMI Program was established in 1986. The P&As are mandated to protect and advocate for the rights of people with mental illness and investigate reports of abuse and neglect in facilities that care for or treat individuals with mental illness. The program was subsequently amended to allow P&As also to serve individuals with mental illness who reside in the community.

PAIR (Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights). The PAIR program was established by Congress under an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act in 1993. PAIR programs provide for services to persons with disabilities who are not eligible for services under the three previously established P&A programs (PAIDD, PAIMI, and the Client Assistance Program for Vocational Rehabilitation). PAIR authorized the P&As to serve persons with all types of disabilities. Although PAIR is funded at a lower level than PAIDD and PAIMI, it represents an important component of a comprehensive system to advocate for the rights of all persons with disabilities.

PAAT (Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology).  The PAAT program was created in 1994 when Congress expanded the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (Tech Act) to include funding for P&As to assist individuals with disabilities in the acquisition, utilization, or maintenance of assistive technology devices or assistive technology services through case management, legal representation and self-advocacy training.

PABSS (Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security). The PABSS program was established in 1999 when the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act (TWWIIA) was enacted. Under this Act, grants to the P&A programs provide advocacy and other services to help beneficiaries of Social Security secure or regain gainful employment.

PATBI (Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury). The PATBI program was created in 2002 to provide protection and advocacy services to individuals with traumatic brain injury. Although P&As often served such individuals under PAIR, CAP, or PABSS, this grant provides more resources specifically to address the unique needs of this population.

PAVA (Protection & Advocacy for Voting Accessibility). The PAVA program was established in 2003 as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). Under this program, P&As have a mandate to help ensure that individuals with disabilities participate in the electoral process through voter education, training of poll officials, registration drives, and polling place accessibility surveys. P&A agencies may not use PAVA program funds for litigation. There is no such restriction in any of the other P&A programs.


Each of the P&A programs is separately administered by the federal agencies listed below. The P&As prepare annual performance reports for each of the eight programs, and the federal agencies monitor the P&As through these reports and through on-site monitoring visits.

  • PAIDD and PAVA are administered by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, located within the Administration for Children Youth and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • PAIR and PAAT are administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration at the US Department of Education.
  • PAIMI is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, at the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • PABSS is administered by the Social Security Administration.
  • PATBI is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services.
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