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.
Click here to find the P&A for your state or territory, and subscribe for more videos from the P&A network at Rooted in Rights.
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The AVID Prison Project is a collaboration between The Arizona Center for Disability Law, Disability Law Colorado, The Advocacy Center of Louisiana, Disability Rights New York, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities of South Carolina, Disability Rights Texas, Disability Rights Washington and The National Disability Rights Network.