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 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.