The National Association for Down Syndrome, or NADS, is an organization that was founded in 1960 by Kathryn McGee in Chicago, Illinois, to support people with Down syndrome and their families in improving their quality of life. Originally named the Mongoloid Developmental Council, NADS is one of the oldest organizations serving people with Down syndrome and their families in the United States. According to NADS, Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs in one in every seven hundred ninety-two people and that causes delays in physical and intellectual development. Members of NADS work to provide information, resources, and access to services and programs for families with Down syndrome, educate the public, address social policy issues and challenges, and facilitate advocacy efforts within the Down syndrome community. For over sixty years, NADS has helped support individuals born with Down syndrome, one of the most common genetic disorders, in the US to find acceptance, develop their capabilities, and work toward independence.
In 1990, the United States Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by employers, governments, or public accommodations. Following gains made during the civil rights movements of the 1900s, people with disabilities sought similar anti-discrimination legislation. The ADA was the culmination of decades of protest and advocacy from the disability rights movement. After the ADA, federal law protected people with an impairment that limited major life functions like sight or mobility from discrimination. The ADA changed the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities by expanding the opportunities they had to work, travel, and participate in their communities legally protected from discrimination.
In United States v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court held, in a unanimous decision, that the rights protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, extended to inmates held in state prisons. The Court also abolished sovereign immunity in cases where the Eighth Amendment is involved. The case came about as a result of Tony Goodman, a paraplegic man in a Georgia state prison, who attempted to sue the state under Title II of the ADA. The state of Georgia argued that they were immune to civil suits based on sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment that holds that Congress cannot pass laws that allow non-consenting states to be sued by their people, except for specific circumstances. The US federal government interceded on Goodman's behalf, with the case then being taken up by the Supreme Court. US v. Georgia partially determined the extent to which the ADA covers disabled Americans, improved the situation of disabled individuals in state prison systems, and further eroded the sovereign immunity claimed by states in cases where ADA violations are alleged.
In the 1999 case Olmstead v. L.C., hereafter Olmstead, the United States Supreme Court held in a six to three decision that the forced segregation of people based on disability violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two women with mental and intellectual disabilities, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, referred to as L.C. and E.W. in case documents, sued the state of Georgia and Tommy Olmstead, the Commissioner of Georgia who headed the Department of Human Resources, for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The two women each voluntarily admitted themselves to treatment in the state-run Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1990. After doctors cleared Curtis and Wilson for transfer into a community-based health setting with non-disabled people, the hospital denied them treatment in a community-based setting due to the financial costs of such treatment and the lack of space. Olmstead protected the rights of people with disabilities outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act by finding the unjustified segregation of disabled people unconstitutional.
In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, referred to as the IDEA, which codified the right of all American children to a free and appropriate public education regardless of disability status. The IDEA requires all public schools that accept federal funds to provide education that meets the needs of students with disabilities at the public expense. Prior to IDEA, many students with disabilities went without any educational opportunities, and many faced confinement in institutions. The IDEA enshrined the right to education for children with disabilities, allowing millions of children to learn in a public-school classroom by setting guidelines for accessibility and the instruction of students with disabilities in American public schools.