About Disability Rights
Protecting the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities
Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) was founded as E.A.C.H. in 1978. Most recently the agency was known as Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee.
Today, DRT is Tennessee’s Protection & Advocacy System and has represented—at no cost—more than 40,000 clients with disabilities. Our mission is to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.
DRT provides services to people with disabilities across the state with numerous issues, including employment discrimination, safety in schools, abuse and neglect, and access to community resources and services.
Since Disability Rights Tennessee’s (DRT) founding, inclusion, integration, self-determination, productivity, and independence, have been the guiding principles behind our mission. These values spurred a small group of parents and professionals to form an organization that would become Tennessee’s Protection & Advocacy System.
In 1978, a group of parents and professionals attended and advocacy training workshop at the International Association for Citizens of Learning Disabilities Convention. Inspired and motivated to create change, the group spurred the creation of an autonomous organization with its primary mission to provide education for parents of children with disabilities regarding their children’s needs, rights, and resources and to provide individual advocacy. E.A.C.H.--Education Advocacy for Children with Handicaps—as it was then called, was incorporated soon after. In July 1983, the acronym was changed to mean "Effective Advocacy for Citizens with Handicaps" when advocacy services were expanded to serve adults with disabilities.
It was during this period of growth in services that EACH was designated Tennessee’s Protection & Advocacy (P&A) system by then-governor Lamar Alexander. The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 mandated a system to protect and advocate for the rights of persons with developmental disabilities. Under this act, the agency has the authority to pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies to insure the protection of the rights of persons who have a developmental disability. Subsequent federal legislation created additional grant programs that expanded the agency’s services to include persons with all kinds of disabilities.
From day one, DRT has used its authority to create equal opportunities for Tennesseans with disabilities. We concentrate our work in three strategic areas: freedom from harm, freedom from discrimination, and freedom to participate in the community. We have provided legal representation—at no cost—to more than 40,000 clients, with issues ranging from lack of community based services or a student being locked up in a closet in school to being denied a sign language interpreter while in a hospital emergency room.
Among DRT's landmark cases are Lane v. Tennessee and Brown v. Tennessee. The Lane case was on behalf of six plaintiffs with mobility disabilities, one of whom used a wheelchair and was forced to crawl up steps in order to reach a courtroom. Settlement of that case resulted in changes that have increased accessibility of TN's court system to people with all types of disabilities. For example, Tennessee's judicial branch now has an ADA policy in place that allows people with disabilities to request disability related modifications such as a continuance or sign language interpreter. The Brown case, better known as the "waiting list" case, was a class action on behalf of over 6,000 people with intellectual disabilities who were on a waiting list to be enrolled in a Medicaid program to pay for services necessary to remain in the community. Because of the settlement in Brown, more than 3,000 people on the waiting list were enrolled into a Medicaid waiver program.
Over the years, we have expanded our individual advocacy and legal work to include Policy Advocacy to support and extend our victories won at an individual level, and to help prevent legislative attempts to undermine gains made by the disability community.
Lisa Primm, Executive Director Elizabeth Setty Reeve, Legal Director
- Anna Bass, Program and Quality Assurance Director
- Gina Brady, Director of Advocacy--West
- Francisca Guzman, Director of Development & Community Relations
- April Mancino-Rosete, Director of Advocacy--Middle
- Shelia Mullis, Director of Finance & Human Resources
- Elizabeth Logsdon, Intake Director & Attorney
Board of Directors
- David Kowalski, President
- Alysia Williams, Vice-President
Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations
- Barbara Zipperian, Treasurer
- Stephanie Cook, Secretary
City of Knoxville
- Craig Barnes
Memphis Area Legal Services
- Brittany Carter
The Arc MidSouth
- Dr. Debra Hanna
UT Health Sciences Center
- Tim Hughes
Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services
- Rep. Darren Jernigan
- Pablo Juarez
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center TRIAD
- Lacey Lyons
- Elise McMillan
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
- Alan Muir
University of Tennessee
- Misty Vetter Parsley
- Tina Prochaska
Tennessee School for the Deaf
- Wanda Willis
Tennesseee Council on Developmental Disabilities
PAIMI Advisory Council
- Alysia Williams, Chair
- Evelyn Yeargin, Vice-Chair
- Thereasa Howse, Secretary
- Beth S. Bates
- Shara Biggs
- Pamela J. Binkley
- Jessie Chism
- Anna Golden
- Richard Johnson
- Michelle McGruder
- Robin Nobling
- Kris Roberts
- Amy Rogerson
- Rusty Totten-Emerson
- Foster Williams, Jr.
Disability rights Tennessee (DRT) is required by federal law to establish a grievance procedure for individuals who have received or are receiving mental health services, family members of such individuals, or representatives of such individuals or family members to assure that DRT is operating in compliance with the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act. 42 U.S.C. § 10805(a)(9). Information about DRT's grievance procedures and accesss to DRTs grievance forms can be found in Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.
DRT is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, primarily funded by the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Health Resources & Services Administration, and the Social Security Administration.
Copies of DRT's most recently filed audited financial statements can be found on our GivingMatters profile.
Disability Rights Tennessee is currently accepting applications for the following positions:
Legal Administrative Assistant
Behind any great team of attorneys is an amazing administrative team. The Legal Administrative Assistant provides administrative support for attorneys and advocates in our Nashville office. This team member creates and maintains all legal and advocacy files; coordinates communications with clients, courts, and opposing counsel; assists with trainings and outreach events as needed; and participates in taskforces, staff meetings and other committees as assigned.
Qualification & Skills
Degree in Paralegal Studies, Office Technology, Special Education, Human Services or related degree is preferred. Ten plus years as an administrative professional will be considered in lieu of degree. Experience in a non-profit organization a plus.
The ideal candidate will possess strong professional judgement, organizational and time management skills, and ability to communicate effectively in multiple settings.
Bilingual candidates and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
Salary Range: $30,000-$40,000
Full Job Posting
Ready to be a part of DRT's Team? Submit a Cover Letter, Resume, and a brief writing sample to Shelia Mullis, Director of Finance/Human Resources at email@example.com