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We Are Colorado's Protection and Advocacy System

What is the P&A Network? | Rooted in Rights Explains

We'll be at the National Disability Rights Network annual conference this week, meeting advocates from all over the U.S. Many protection & advocacy agencies will be there to talk about the work they're doing. What's a protection and advocacy agency? We thought you might ask. Check out our explainer video:#NDRN2015 #disability #disabilityrightsTRANSCRIPT: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.To find the P&A in your state or territory, click Learn More at the end of this video. And for more videos, follow Rooted in Rights.

Posted by Rooted in Rights on Monday, June 1, 2015


Disability Law Colorado (formerly known as The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People) is an independent, public interest non-profit organization, specializing in civil rights and discrimination issues.

We work to promote systemic change to sustain or improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and elders. 

See Our Success Stories

Our Services

We address a wide variety of disability issues ranging from special education, housing and employment, to long-term care and voting rights.

We do this through four core service areas:

  1. Legal Representation
  2. Training and Education
  3. Information and Referrals
  4. Legislative Analysis

Our Origins

Disability Law Colorado was created in 1976 out of the dream of a small group of parents who came together to secure equal rights for their children with developmental disabilities who were living in state institutions. These parents wanted a better life for their children and believed that all people with disabilities deserved the right to live full and rewarding lives.

Groundbreaking Work

Some of Disability Law Colorado’s early successes included:

  • Requiring school districts to pay for children’s education in public schools. This groundbreaking lawsuit resulted in children with severe disabilities attending public schools for the first time.
  • Preventing sterilization of people with developmental disabilities.
  • Preventing discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace.

State Protection & Advocacy System

In 1977, the governor designated Disability Law Colorado to be Colorado’s Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System for people with developmental disabilities. Over time, Congress expanded the P&A network which now includes eight federally mandated programs that allow us to reach out to more people with disabilities.

Today, Disability Law Colorado is recognized as a leader in the National Disability Rights Network made up of Protection and Advocacy programs from all the states and territories.