Our History

The Protection and Advocacy (P & A) System and Client Assistance Program (CAP) is a nationwide network of legally based disability rights agencies mandated by federal law to protect and advocate for individuals with disabilities. P & A agencies have the authority to investigate abuse and neglect of people with disabilities, provide legal representation to people with disabilities and engage in other advocacy to advance the rights of individuals with disabilities.

The History of the Protection & Advocacy System & Client Assistance Program

We are a not-for-profit corporation that was incorporated in 1989 under than name Disability Advocates, Inc., for the sole purpose of providing Protection and Advocacy services. In 2013, we were designated as the Protection and Advocacy and Client Assistance Program system for New York State.

The Protection & Advocacy system was created nationwide as a result of abuse that was uncovered at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York in the 1970s. Willowbrook was a state institution for people with intellectual and other disabilities. An expose on the deplorable conditions at Willowbrook was broadcasted into living rooms across the United States and for the first time we saw images of abuse, neglect and the lack of services and supports in state run facilities. The outcry prompted Congress to hold hearings.


Full Expose Video

Congress concluded that the states were not capable of overseeing the service delivery system and created an independent oversight system. In 1975, United State’s Senior Senator, Jacob Javits, spearheaded the legislation creating the first Protection and Advocacy program. The Protection and Advocacy for People with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) program was created through the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (DD) Act.  Congress authorized the Protection and Advocacy system to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect and advocate for the civil and legal rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Over the years, Congress expanded the P & A system to include all people with disabilities.

1986 - Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mentally Illness (PAIMI)

1992 - Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR)

1994 - Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT)

1999 – Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)

2000 – Protection & Advocacy for people with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)

2002 – Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access

2018 – Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries with Representative Payees (PARP)

Today there are 57 P&A systems (one in each state and territory) serving people with disabilities.

The Client Assistance Program (CAP) was authorized under the 1984 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  It exists to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities who are eligible for services from programs funded through the Rehabilitation Act, including employment-related services.

As New York State’s P & A system, we monitor, investigate and advocate to remedy adverse conditions in large and small, public and private facilities that care for people with disabilities. In order to conduct our investigations and monitor the conditions of these facilities Congress gave us broad authority to access facilities at times when service recipients are present. This authority includes the opportunity to interview any facility service recipient, employee, or other person, including the person thought to be the victim of such abuse, who might be reasonably believed by the system to have knowledge of the incident under investigation; and to inspect, view and photograph all areas of the facility's premises that might be believed by the system to have been connected with the incident under investigation.

We also have the authority and devote considerable resources to ensuring full access to inclusive educational programs, financial entitlements, healthcare, accessible housing, transportation and productive employment opportunities, as well as continuing to seek prevention of abuse and neglect.

For more information about the re-designation of New York State's Protection and Advocacy and Client Assistance Program