Disability Rights DC (DRDC) at University Legal Services is the federally-designated protection and advocacy program for people with disabilities in the District of Columbia and is the Client Assistance Program under the Rehabilitation Act. DRDC’s mission is to advocate for the human, civil, and legal rights of people with disabilities in the District of Columbia.
DRDC engages in a variety of activities to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities including: individual representation, systemic advocacy, community outreach and education and investigation of abuse and neglect. All services are provided free-of-charge to eligible individuals with disabilities, according to DRDC’s annual objectives and priorities.
DRDC administers the following programs:
In 1975, Congress enacted the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act to protect the legal, human, and civil rights of people with developmental disabilities and created funding for the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) program. Under the PADD program, DRDC advocates on behalf of people with developmental disabilities for equal access to government services and public accommodations, appropriate and inclusive special education services, quality community-based supports and services and the right to make their own decisions. DRDC also monitors the services and supports provided in institutional and community placements and schools and investigates when it receives complaints or has probable cause to believe people with developmental disabilities have been subjected to abuse and/or neglect.
In1986, Congress passed the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI) to address the abuse, neglect, serious injury and lack of treatment and appropriate discharge planning affecting adults and children with serious mental illness. Through the PAIMI program, DRDC advocates to reduce the reliance on institution-based services for children and adults with serious mental illness and advocates for greater consumer choice and autonomy, quality and accessible community-based services and supports and equal access to programs, housing and public accommodations. DRDC also monitors and investigates abuse and neglect in facilities and programs serving people with mental illness. DRDC represents individual clients with serious mental illness and also conducts outreach and education to inform the community and policy-making bodies about the rights of people with mental illness and the need to reduce the reliance on institution-based care.
PAIMI programs are required to establish PAIMI advisory councils. The PAIMI Advisory Council advises DRDC on priorities and issues important to people receiving mental health services in the District of Columbia. Read more about the PAIMI Advisory Council.
The Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR) program serves people with any significant disability other than people with developmental disabilities and people with mental illness. Through the PAIR program, DRDC advocates on behalf of people with disabilities to ensure their access to DC government services and supports n the most integrated setting. DRDC advocates for quality community-based services and for accessible polling sites, governmental facilities and programs and public accommodations.
DRDC is designated under the Social Security Act to provide information and advocacy services to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries to help them secure or regain gainful employment. Through the PABSS program, DRDC advocates on behalf of SSI and SSDI beneficiaries to remove barriers to securing, maintaining or regaining employment and provides information on issues affecting employment networks, and other service providers under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act.
Created by the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-166) as amended, the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) program is designed to improve access to health and other services for people with brain injuries. Through PATBI, DRDC advocates for the successful inclusion of people with traumatic brain injury in community life, for reasonable accommodations for people with traumatic brain injury to allow them to access existing programs and services and investigates allegations of abuse or neglect against people with traumatic brain injuries.
Under the Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) program, DRDC advocates for people with disabilities who need access to assistive technology that meets their needs and promotes their inclusion in community life. DRDC advocates for people with disabilities who need durable medical equipment from DC Medicaid and other DC government programs and for full access for people using assistive technology to polling places, government facilities and public accommodations.
DRDC is funded under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (PL 107-252) to advocate for the rights of DC voters with disabilities. Through the PAVA program, DRDC advocates for the right of DC residents with disabilities to vote independently and privately, alongside residents without disabilities, and for accessible polling places.
DRDC serves as the Client Assistance Program (CAP) for the District of Columbia, a mandated program under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Through the CAP program, DRDC provides information to clients and applicants of the DC Rehabilitation Services Administration (DCRSA). DRDC represents DCRSA clients at Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) meetings, administrative reviews and fair hearings to advocate for their right to quality vocational rehabilitation services.
The DC Jail Advocacy Project is an outgrowth of ULS’ PAIMI Program but separately funded through private foundations which enable us to conduct outreach to assist DC residents with psychiatric disabilities in the DC Jail or Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) who are planning their reentry into the community. Our goal is to redress abuse, neglect or discrimination which increase periods of incarceration and serve as barriers to successful reentry for men and women with psychiatric disabilities.
Strengthening Protections for Beneficiaries of Social Security
In 2018, the President signed the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act. This law directs state protection and advocacy system organizations, such as DRDC, to conduct periodic onsite reviews of representative payees, along with additional discretionary reviews. In addition, DRDC conducts reviews based on allegations we receive of payee misconduct. A review includes: 1) an interview with the individual or organizational representative payee, 2) a review of the representative payee’s financial records for the requested beneficiary or sample of beneficiaries served, and 3) a home visit and interview for each beneficiary included in the review; and an interview with legal guardians and third parties when applicable. If a representative payee is found to be mishandling benefits or is otherwise failing to comply with SSA’s guidelines, DRDC works with the payee on a corrective action plan with SSA’s advance approval of the plan. SSA does their own follow-up in more significant instances.
We developed this website at U.S. taxpayer expense, funded through a Social Security grant agreement. Although Social Security reviewed this publication for accuracy, it does not constitute an official Social Security communication.
Learn more about Disability Rights DC
- Disability Rights DC - Client Assistance Program
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology
- Disability Rights DC - DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project
- Disability Rights DC - Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury