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 served—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 served—at no cost—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.



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Lisa Primm, Executive 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
    Alternative Capital Solutions
  • Alysia Williams, Vice-President 
    Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations
  • Barbara Zipperian, Treasurer
    Lawrence Group
  • 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
    Belmont University
  • Elise McMillan
    Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
  • Alan Muir
    University of Tennessee
  • Misty Vetter Parsley
    Lipscomb University
  • Tina Prochaska
    Tennessee School for the Deaf
  • Wanda Willis
    Tennesseee Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Barbara Simmons
    Morristown Hamblen County Central Services, Inc.

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. 

Grievance Policy

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 Community  Living, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the Rehabilitation 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 now hiring for the following opportunity!

Legal Director - This leadership position works to ensure that Disability Rights Tennessee achieves its overall mission to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities by overseeing the agency's legal services.