Disability Rights Tennessee
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2 International Plaza Suite 825
Nashville, TN 37217
Organization Details



Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) protects the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.


For forty-five years, Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) has fought to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities. Driven by our core values, DRT has focused our work in three strategic areas - freedom from harm, freedom from discrimination, and freedom to participate in the community. Since our founding in 1978, DRT has served-at no cost-more than 50,000 Tennesseans with disabilities by providing legal representation, advocacy, education, and connection to resources.

Our agency was founded in 1978 by parents and professionals based on the core values of inclusion, integration, self-determination, productivity, and independence. In 1983 services were expanded to serve adults with disabilities and the agency, originally called E.A.C.H, was designated as the Protection & Advocacy (P&A) Agency for Tennessee by Governor Lamar Alexander.

This designation as a P&A Agency came as a result of The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 (DD Act). The DD Act mandated an independent state level system to protect and advocate for the rights of persons with developmental disabilities. Since the passing of the DD Act, other federal acts have been passed, allowing the organization to expand its work to include all people with disabilities. Through these federal acts as a P&A Agency, Disability Rights Tennessee has the authority to pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies to ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Tennessee.

DRT is rooted in individual advocacy, although over the years DRT has expanded its efforts to include systemic and policy change. The goal is to amplify the victories won at an individual level, as well as to protect significant policy gains made by the disability community.


In 2018, organizational accomplishments through advocacy and legal services included: Providing free advocacy and legal services to more than 2,400 Tennesseans with disabilities. Celebrating 40 years of service and hosting our fifth annual Disability Employment Awareness Luncheon with keynote speaker, Paul Weissert. Hiring additional legal staff in response to a social security focused government grant. Successfully advocating with community partners for reinstatement of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services to help Tennesseans with disabilities gain competitive and gainful employment. Experiencing an increase in requests for services related to abuse, neglect and educational supports through our legal advocacy, investigation, and technical assistance work. DRT also experienced an increase in requests for assistance with access issues in FY2018. These show that our advocacy, outreach, and communications work are having an impact and reaching the people who need our help. Goals to further Disability Rights Tennessee's mission in 2019 include:1. Continue to celebrate and share the impact of Disability Rights Tennessee and our protection and advocacy work over the last 40 years. Host our sixth annual Disability Employment Awareness Lunch. 2. Continue to provide advocacy and legal services to Tennesseans with disabilities to allow them to fully participate in the community. Increase individual advocacy assistance to ensure students with disabilities receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education, while collaborating with partner agencies to address systemic issues related to special education in the state.3. Develop systemic training curriculum, in addition to current legal remedies, for medical providers to improve the quality of healthcare received by those who are deaf and hard of hearing.4. Work with partner agencies to ensure that Tennesseans with disabilities have access to competitive employment through additional training and education on reasonable accommodations and employment discrimination.5. Diversify funding for disability rights programs to allow the agency to better respond to shifts in federal funding.


Funding to expand Special Education advocacy services.Funding to update interagency technology to allow for more efficient delivery of service to our clients. Pro Bono Attorneys to assist with advocacy and legal work. Volunteers to assist with back office duties: recycling, filing, surveys, etc.

CEO Statement

Disability Rights Tennessee celebrated 40 years of services to Tennesseans with disabilities in 2018. We have come a long way in this time but there is still so much more work to be done to make sure that people with disabilities can live life fully, free from harm and discrimination. We continue to work to make connections with partner organizations throughout the state to raise awareness and to increase access to our services, referral network, and information available to accomplish our goals and meet our stated mission. We welcome the public's involvement in our work as we celebrate more than 40 years of service.

Service Categories

Primary Category: Human Services  - Alliances & Advocacy 
Secondary Category: Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy  - Disabled Persons' Rights 
Tertiary Category: -

Areas Served

DRT is a statewide organization serving all 95 Tennessee counties with offices in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.