About the Disabilities Law Program

The Disabilities Law Program (“DLP”) is a special project of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., which is designated by the Governor as the Protection and Advocacy (“P&A”) agency in Delaware.

The DLP provides advocacy services to Delaware residents with physical or mental disabilities. We prioritize our services based on federal agency guidance and needs identified by consumer and community groups.

For more information about what a P&A is, please visit: https://youtu.be/m3vYxSe3s4M.

 

Types of Services Provided

Individual Advocacy – including investigation, mediation, negotiation, legal consultation and legal representation.

Systemic Advocacy – emphasizing major reform efforts on critical issues affecting client groups through negotiation, legislation, regulatory work, and litigation.

General Information – regarding available services, rights and remedies to clients and their families, service providers, attorneys and other representatives.

Referral Services – provided to those who may be better served by other sources such as state, local or federal agencies, or other advocacy organizations.

Community Education/Self Advocacy Training – community education materials and programs are provided as well as training and legal information workshops.

 

Eligibility for Services

The Disabilities Law Program includes eight advocacy programs serving individuals with disabilities. Qualifications for each program are described in detail in the “Disabilities Law Programs and Program Priorities” section below.

 

Applying for Services

If you have a legal problem that is related to your disability, you should call the Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) office nearest you. The voice/TTY phone numbers in each county are:

New Castle County
302-575-0690 / 800-292-7980
302-575-0696 (TTY/TDD)

Kent County
302-674-8500 / 800-537-8383
302-674-9430 (TTY)

Sussex County
302-856-0038 / 800-462-7070
302-856-7491 (TTY)

 

Disabilities Law Programs and Program Priorities

The Disabilities Law Program includes the following eight advocacy programs serving individuals with disabilities:

 

PADD – Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

PADD serves individuals with a severe mental or physical impairment that developed before age 22 which causes multiple major functional limitations that are expected to last indefinitely.

The program also serves young children from birth to age 5 with developmental disabilities, or with conditions that may lead to developmental disabilities without services.

PADD typically assists in securing rights to:

  • Appropriate treatment
  • A free and appropriate public education
  • Freedom from discrimination in housing and family services
  • Accessibility
  • Financial entitlements including Medicaid services and SSI
  • Freedom from abuse and neglect
  • Other rights related to the disability

Detailed priorities for PADD can be found here: FY24 PADD, PAAT, and PATBI Priorities

 

PAAT – Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology

PAAT serves individuals with disabilities experiencing legal barriers to access to assistive technology devices and services.  Assistive technology includes durable medical equipment, wheelchairs, communication devices, and other disability-related aids.  Individuals of all ages with significant disabilities are eligible for services under PAAT.

PAAT typically assists in securing the rights to:

  • Include assistive technology devices and services in Individualized Education Plans (IEP) for special education students
  • Medicaid coverage of assistive technology devices and services for children and adults with disabilities
  • Appropriate assistive technology devices and services in vocational rehabilitation and employment settings
  • Other services directly related to disability and assistive technology

Detailed priorities for PAAT can be found here: FY24 PADD, PAAT, and PATBI Priorities

 

PAIR – Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights

PAIR serves individuals with a severe physical or mental disability that is not considered developmental, or that occurred after the age of 22.

PAIR provides advocacy services to protect rights in the areas of:

  • Freedom from discrimination in housing
  • Accessibility to public accommodations
  • Availability and access to transportation
  • Public agency policy accommodations
  • Other rights related to the disability

Detailed priorities for PAIR can be found here: FY24 PAIR Priorities

 

PAIMI – Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness

PAIMI serves persons with mental illness who either:

  • Reside in a public or private facility (such as a hospital, nursing home, institution, or community care home) or
  • Reside in the community but are at risk of abuse, neglect or civil rights violation.

PAIMI typically provides services in securing rights to:

  • An individualized treatment plan
  • Appropriate treatment
  • A comprehensive discharge plan
  • Freedom from abuse and neglect
  • A free and appropriate public education
  • Other rights related to the disability

Detailed priorities for PAIMI can be found here: FY24 PAIMI Priorities

Note: If you suspect that your child may need special education services in school, you should submit a written request for a special education evaluation to your child’s school.

Click here for a sample special education evaluation request form in English

Click here for a sample special education evaluation request form in Spanish

 

PABSS – Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security

PABSS serves current Social Security or SSI beneficiaries who wish to work, particularly participants in the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program. Services include:

  • Provision of information and training on work incentives and employment
  • Advocacy to overcome barriers to employment
  • Investigation of complaints against employers or providers involved in return to work effort
  • Correction of defects in vocational rehabilitation, employment and support agencies

For more information about employment and vocational rights of youth who are in transition to adulthood, visit the DLP’s Transition to Adulthood site.

 

PATBI – Protection and Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury

PATBI serves individuals with traumatic brain injury, an injury to the head caused by blunt, penetrating, or other force which generally results in mental or physical dysfunction.

PATBI typically assists in securing rights to:

  • Special education and vocational training
  • “Safety net” public benefits such as SSI or Medicaid
  • Freedom from housing discrimination
  • Freedom from inappropriate institutionalization
  • Other rights related to the disability.

Detailed PATBI priorities can be found here: FY24 PADD, PAAT, and PATBI Priorities

 

PAVA – Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access

PAVA serves individuals with disabilities to ensure full and effective participation in the electoral process.

PAVA typically advocates to overcome policy and physical barriers to voter registration and to access polling sites and usable voting equipment. Typical advocacy includes training, technical assistance, and legal representation. However, Federal guidelines disallow project funds to be used for litigation involving disability-related election access.

Detailed PAVA program priorities can be found here: FY24 PAVA Priorities

 

CAP – Client Assistance Program

CAP is an advocacy program for people with disabilities who are seeking or receiving services authorized in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and funded through the State of Delaware’s:

  • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
  • Division for the Visually Impaired (DVI), and
  • Centers for Independent Living (CIL):
    • Independent Resources, Inc. (IRI)
    • Freedom Center for Independent Living (FCIL)

CAP services include:

  • Explaining your rights and responsibilities throughout the rehabilitation or Pre-Employment Transition Services process
  • Helping you communicate your concerns to DVR/DVI staff
  • Informing you about rehabilitation or Pre-Employment Transition programs and services
  • Explaining DVR/DVI policies and procedures
  • Advocating for you when a service has been denied or when you are unhappy with a service provided
  • Arranging for legal representation when necessary to represent you in a formal appeal
  • Informing you about your employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act

 

History of the Disabilities Law Program

The national Protection and Advocacy (“P&A”) system was initially established through federal legislation in response to the abuse, neglect and lack of programming in institutions for persons with disabilities. Since 1975, Congress has created several distinct statutory programs to address the needs of different populations of persons with disabilities. Learn more here: https://youtu.be/m3vYxSe3s4M.

The governor in each state selected an agency to be the P&A system. Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) was designated to be Delaware’s P&A system, and provides legal advocacy services through its Disabilities Law Program. Since 1977, the Disabilities Law Program has grown to include its current eight specialized programs.

Disabilities Law Program Issues General Election Accessibility Report

On May 4, 2023, the Disabilities Law Program (“DLP”)’s Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access (“PAVA”) program released a new report based on its monitoring of Delaware polling places during the 2022 General Election. The DLP found accessibility violations at a significant number of the 145 polling places it surveyed. We urge the Department of Elections to meet its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and ensure that all Delaware polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities going forward. View the report here: PAVA Delaware General Election Accessibility Report – May 2023