As Oregon’s designated Protection & Advocacy (P&A) System for 37 years, DRO has a unique role: to uphold the legal rights of people with disabilities.
A 1975 series by Geraldo Rivera (at the time a local television news reporter) led to the creation of Disability Rights Oregon and 52 other Protection & Advocacy (P&A) systems across America.
This series of investigative reports exposed egregious abuse and neglect at Willowbrook, a state institution for people with mental retardation on Staten Island. New York Senator Jacob Javitts acted promptly, leading Congress to mandate that each state and territory receiving funding under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 (commonly referred to as the DD Act) establish a Protection & Advocacy (P&A) system to protect the rights of people with developmental disabilities.
Disability Rights Oregon (formerly Oregon Advocacy Center) was established in 1977 (as the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Advocacy Center) and designated by the Governor as Oregon’s P&A system. Following the creation of the P&A system via the DD Act, Congress gradually expanded our responsibilities as a P&A to advocate for people with other types of disabilities as well.
In 1986, we began Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) after Congressional findings of abuse and neglect of individuals with psychiatric disabilities in residential care facilities. Funding was first allocated for advocacy services for individuals in mental health facilities, and later expanded to advocate for individuals with mental illness living in the community.
In 1993, we began Protection & Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR) to protect and advocate for the legal and human rights of persons with disabilities.
Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) began in 1994 when Congress included funding for P&As to assist individuals with disabilities in accessing assistive technology and services through case management, legal representation and self advocacy training.
In 1999, Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) was established after the bipartisan Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Ace (TWWIIA) was enacted to address the barriers people with disabilities face in their efforts to return to work by providing information and advocacy services to beneficiaries of Social Security with disabilities.
In 2000, we began Benefit Planning Assistance & Outreach or Passage to Independence to assist recipients of Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) who want to find out how their benefits might be impacted by going to work. It is now called the Work Incentives Planning & Assistance (WIPA) Project, and our project is called Plan for Work.
Two important provisions for P&As were included in the Children’s Health Act of 2000. First, the PAIMI program was expanded to cover individuals with mental illness in the community. Secondly, Congress authorized Protection & Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) in 2002 to provide P&A services for individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families.
The Client Assistance Program (CAP) was established by the 1984 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. This program provides assistance to clients who have issues with agencies providing services under the RSA, such as Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Independent Living Centers (ILCs) and the Oregon Commission for the Blind, and tribal VR programs. In 2001, we began a subcontract for CAP from the Oregon Disabilities Commission. In 2006, we became the designated CAP agency for Oregon.
In 2002, Protection & Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) was established by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). PAVA enables P&As to secure election access by providing people with disabilities services to ensure full participation in the electoral process, including registering to vote and casting a vote.
In May 2008, we changed our name from the Oregon Advocacy Center to Disability Rights Oregon, to better reflect the broad range of work we do on behalf of Oregonians with disabilities.