45 Years of Advocacy

DRT provides services to people with disabilities across the state regarding numerous issues, including employment discrimination, safety in schools, abuse and neglect, and access to community resources and services. This timeline highlights a sample of the types of legal cases and policy work that we have conducted in the last 45 years. The timeline portrays the major changes in rights, attitudes, and even terminology used over our past four decades of work.



Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in federally-funded programs and activities.



The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 (DD Act)

Under the Federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 (DD Act), each state was required to have a statewide Protection & Advocacy network in place by October 1, 1977. This bill provides funding for Protection & Advocacy organizations (P&As) to represent individuals with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism and related disabilities, and other lifelong conditions.



Education for All Handicapped Children Act

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act ensures that children with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE).


E.A.C.H is Founded

A group of parents and professionals attended an advocacy training workshop at the International Association for Citizens of Learning Disabilities Convention. Inspired and motivated to create change, the group created an autonomous organization with the primary mission of providing education and resources to parents of children with disabilities. Education Advocacy for Children with Handicaps, E.A.C.H., was incorporated soon after. View image of original business incorporation documentRead text version of original business incorporation document.

July 1983

E.A.C.H is designated as Tennessee’s P&A and expands its advocacy

As a result of the DD ACT of 1975, E.A.C.H was designated as Tennessee’s Protection & Advocacy (P&A) network by Governor Lamar Alexander. The organization expanded its mission to include all individuals with disabilities and the name was changed to Effective Advocacy for Citizens with Handicaps (E.A.C.H.). View image of the Governor’s designation letterRead text version of the Governor’s designation letter.



Client Assistance Program (CAP)

The National Disability Rights Network worked successfully to expand the P&A System with the addition of the Client Assistance Program (CAP) mandated in all states. CAP provides advocacy services to clients of state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies. That same year, Congress again renewed the developmental disabilities statute, strengthening P&A authority to intercede in matters of inappropriate institutional care. Read more about DRT’s current CAP program.



Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI)

This bill provides funding to protect individuals with mental illness from abuse and neglect in institutions.



Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA was signed in July of 1990. It is the most comprehensive legislation to date protecting the rights of people with disabilities.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) was renamed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. The act states all children with disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.


Tennessee Protection & Advocacy

E.A.C.H. changes its name to Tennessee Protection & Advocacy.



Protection & Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR)

Congress authorized Protection & Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR). The purpose of this act is to protect the rights of all individuals with disabilities not covered under PADD, PAIMI, or CAP, including individuals who are blind, deaf, or have a mobility disability.


Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act is re-authorized in this year.



Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT)

The Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) program was authorized by Congress. It allows P&As to provide advocacy services to people with disabilities who are denied funding for assistive technology devices and services such as computers and wheelchairs.



Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)

An effort was launched by the disability community to pass the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Implementation Act (TWWIIA) which assists beneficiaries of Social Security. This legislation authorized the Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program, which assists individuals who received SSDI or SSI benefits and wish to work.



Olmstead v. L.C.

The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the ADA gives people with disabilities a right to receive services in their home communities when appropriate. They should not have to live in institutions to get those services.



Protection & Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)

Congress authorizes the Children’s Health Act of 2000 which increased research, treament, and overall health programming to improve childhod health outcomes. The Protection & Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) is authorized in this bill creating additional resources for DRT and other P&As to provide services for people with TBI.



PAIMI is expanded

In 2000, the law was expanded to include individuals with mental illness living in the community.



Protection & Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA)

The Help America Vote Act is authorized by Congess which creates the Protection & Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) program. PAVA enables P&As to ensure full participation in the electoral porcess for individuals with disabilities, including registering to vote, casting a vote, and accessing polling places.



Tennessee v. Lane

Tennessee v. Lane was a lawsuit brought by DRT 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. The 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling resulted in changes to the policies and practices of Tennessee’s judicial branch. Among other changes, people with disabilities can request disability related modifications such as a continuance or sign language interpreter from Tennessee courts.


Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee (DLAC)

The organization changes its name to Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee or DLAC.



ADA Amendments Act

Congress enacted the ADA Amendments Act to make a number of significant changes to the meaning and interpretation of the ADA’s definition of “disability.” These changes were intended to ensure that the definition of disability would be broadly construed and applied without extensive analysis.



Brown v. Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration

This class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of over 6,000 people with intellectual disabilities who were on a waiting list to be enrolled in a Medicaid program. This program would provide services necessary to remain in the community. More than 3,000 people on the waiting list were enrolled into a Medicaid waiver program as a result of this case.



Disability Rights Tennessee

The organization changes its name to Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT).



Tennessee removes discriminatory questions from attorney licensure application

Through a decision by the U.S. Department of Justice and consistent education and advocacy from Disability Rights Tennessee, discriminatory questions related to a person’s mental health status were removed from the TNBLA application.



Federal Judge certifies class action lawsuit against TDOC

Disability Rights Tennessee, The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, and Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC file a lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) for failing to providing adequate treatment to inmates with Hepatitis C (HCV). In 2017, a judge certifies the lawsuit as class action.



Strengthening Protection for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017

In March, federal legislation titled, “Strengthening Protection for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017,” passes. This legislation will create new programming and funding for Disability Rights Tennessee along with the Protection and Advocacy system to monitor and investigate Representative Payees who oversee Social Security Beneficiaries benefits when they are determined to be incapable of managing their own finances.