GAO History

Georgia Advocacy Office, Inc. (GAO) is a private, non-profit corporation.

  • GAO was founded in 1977.
  • GAO is mandated to exist by federal legislation and receives federal funding that comes with that mandate.
  • GAO has seven different programs, each begun when a different piece of federal legislation was passed.
  • Each program uses a combination of supporting self-advocacy, citizen involvement, staff advocacy, and legal advocacy to protect and advocate for the rights of Georgians with disabilities.
  • GAO also focuses on community building and partnering with self-advocates and community associates to widen the network of support that is available in Georgia for people with disabilities and those who care about them.
  • Citizen Advocacy is another strategy that is used to protect and advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities in several communities in Georgia. Citizen Advocacy happens when a valued citizen, unpaid and independent of human services, creates an intentional relationship with a person who is at increased risk of abuse, neglect and social exclusion. The citizen advocate chooses one of many ways to understand, respond to and represent the partner’s interests as if they were the advocate’s own. This allows the gifts and concerns of the person with the disability to be brought forth into the circles of ordinary community life. GAO believes relationships with people who are loyal and free from conflict of interest are what make all people safer. It also helps create a space for our communities to be enriched by all of its members.

The following United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations citations provide the authority for P&A systems in each state, including Georgia:

  • Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (PADD) Act of 2000, – 42 U.S.C. §15041 et seq. 45 C.F.R. § 1386.19 to 1386.25
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act – 42 U.S.C. §10801 et seq. 42 C.F.R. § 51.1 to 51.46
  • Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR) – 29 U.S.C. §794e
  • Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities (PAAT) – 29 U.S.C. §3012(a)(1)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS), Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, as amended (TWWIA) 42 U.S.C. § 320b-21
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) 42 USC § 300d-53
  • Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA), 42 USC § 15461-1546

The Georgia Advocacy Office is organized primarily around the principles of loyalty to people with disabilities and independence in our advocacy. Central to our work is the understanding that people with disabilities have the right to self-determination, protections from harm, and the opportunity to fully exercise their citizenship rights and responsibilities. In line with these principles, the Georgia Advocacy Office uses a broad range of remedies including systems advocacy, individual advocacy, outreach, support to individuals to become self-advocates, Citizen Advocacy, litigation, training and education.  The GAO monitors State hospitals serving individuals with disabilities and responds to calls involving community-based services.  The GAO provides individual advocacy ranging from technical assistance to litigation in United States federal court to ensure that the civil liberties of individuals with disabilities are protected.

To learn more about the initiatives of GAO and the priorities of the GAO programs please see What We Do.