From Lisa: Celebrating Progress & Community

  • May 15, 2018

Earlier this month DRT participated in the Big Payback – a 24-hour, online day of giving hosted by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. During this event we received donations from the community to support the work that we do to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities. One Tennessean made a generous donation to us not because she has a personal connection to disability, but because she believes that the rights of people with disabilities are worth fighting for.

"I was reminded that through our combined efforts we are showing those outside this community that disability rights matter."

That’s why this month I find myself feeling especially thankful for the disability COMMUNITY in Tennessee. In a state where we still lack sufficient access to healthcare and have a burdened Vocational Rehabilitation system, among other challenges, what we can be proud of is the thriving community and advocacy happening in Tennessee. It’s the familiar faces I see in meetings and at events—including providers, advocates, policy-makers, state and local employees, people with disabilities and the people who care about them. It is truly a movement, and we work well together. In fact, Tennessee has unprecedented collaborations between key stakeholders in this movement. We are modeling how to work well together in order to effect change in our state, and I am proud of the work WE are doing. So when we received a generous donation from someone not already in this incredible community, I was reminded that through our combined efforts we are showing those outside this community that disability rights matter.  

And matter they do. As we celebrate the 40th birthday of our organization we still face big hurdles, but I am also thinking about how far we have come. 40 years ago the movement was just beginning. There was no ADA. (That didn’t come until 1990). There were no jobs. There was no technology. We did not know how to talk about disability. At the risk of sounding like a cigarette commercial, we’ve come a long way baby. And this year we are going to celebrate. That doesn’t mean we are resting on our laurels or even taking a break, but it does mean we get to look at the progress that has been made over 40 years and at the improvements in quality of life for the people we serve. Most importantly, we will take time to recognize that we are part of a larger community that has helped us to make this progress. 


Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is a nonprofit legal services organization that provides free legal advocacy services to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.

Middle Tennessee (Admin Office)

2 International Plaza, Suite 825
Nashville, TN 37217

Phone: 615-298-1080
Fax: 615-298-2046

East Tennessee

9050 Executive Park Drive, Suite 101-B
Knoxville, TN 37923

Phone: 865-670-2944
Fax: 865-470-7028

West Tennessee

1407 Union Avenue, Suite 1015
Memphis, TN 38104

Phone: 901-458-6013
Fax: 901-249-2933