Agency Spotlight – Disability Rights TN

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Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities. DRT is part of the Protection & Advocacy Systems (P&A) —a national network of federally mandated legal advocacy agencies. Each of DRT’s programs works to advance their vision to keep Tennesseans free from harm, free to participate in the community, and free from discrimination.

DRT provides diverse services to people with disabilities, including:

  • Assistance with COVID-19 issues
  • Advocacy for people with disabilities who are being abused, neglected, or harmed
  • Help with access to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services
  • Support for people who receive Social Security benefits who have barriers to work
  • Helping gain access to Assistive Technology
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Help with access to Vote
  • Applying for CHOICES, ECF CHOICES, and the Katie Beckett Waiver programs
  • Supported Decision-Making services
  • Reviews of Social Security Representative Payees

DRT Advocacy and Other Services for Seniors with Disabilities

DRT serves people with disabilities of all ages, including seniors. Each client’s issue is tackled with a unique approach using strategies such as outreach and education, monitoring and investigations, advocacy services, or legal interventions.

An example of DRT’s advocacy work that directly impacts seniors in Tennessee is a complaint it brought to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This complaint alleged discriminatory policies within Tennessee’s crisis standards of care (CSC) plan which outlines how healthcare resources are allocated during a crisis. As a result of DRT’s complaint, Tennessee improved its policies to ensure that Tennesseans with disabilities have access to healthcare during a health crisis like COVID-19. Read more about the TN CSC Complaint.

DRT also protects seniors through the Adult Advocacy Program which focuses on monitoring and investigating issues of abuse and/or neglect in congregate settings where seniors may reside, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, group homes, mental health hospitals, jails and prisons, etc.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, DRT advocated for seniors to be kept safe from the spread of the virus while ensuring they received equal access to the care, goods, and services that they needed.

DRT continues to meet the needs of seniors in Tennessee by serving as the point of contact for the In-Home Vaccine Program, which offers seniors with or without disabilities free COVID-19 vaccines in their own homes. They just need to call the Intake phone number at 1-800-342-1660 to request a visit from a home healthcare worker who will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to them. This program is a collaboration of Disability Rights Tennessee, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, Center on Developmental Disabilities, The SILC, TN Disability Coalition, and The TN Department of Health.

Additionally, seniors and other adults with disabilities in Tennessee now have a central place to get information about the range of legal supports for decision-making, including supported decision-making and power of attorney. DRT houses the Tennessee Center for Decision-Making Supports, a virtual resource designed to make it easy for families, educators, and support professionals to find information and tools for decision-making support and future planning. The center is a joint effort of The Arc Tennessee, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT). Seniors may visit the Tennessee Center for Decision-Making Support at or call the hotline at 1-800-835-7077.

DRT can assist seniors with a wide range of needs through different programs. The programs mentioned above are highlighted because of their relevance to seniors. Below are other DRT programs that can also help seniors with specific needs:

  • The TennCare Beneficiary Support Services (BSS) Program – Helps applicants and members of CHOICES, ECF CHOICES, and the Katie Beckett Waiver programs with issues and concerns;
  • The Assistive Technology Program – Helps people get access to technology that enhances their independence;
  • The Voting program – Ensures access to the polls;
  • And many more: Learn more about DRT services and resources.

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Get Involved

To request help or information from DRT, you can contact our Intake phone number at 1-800-342-1660, email or complete our online form: Get Help Form.  Our intake department has bilingual Spanish/English staff to assist callers.

To stay informed about DRT’s work, you may subscribe to DRT’s newsletter and follow us on social media. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.