Start Main Content

The Americans with Disabilities Act Works

By Bob Williams,  Associate Commissioner for the Social Security's Office of Employment Support Programs 

In 1990, I was privileged to be part of a coalition of people with disabilities, civil rights workers and disability advocates in Washington, DC who, with the tremendous support of thousands of ordinary citizens across America, convinced the Congress to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law.  One of the most powerful memories of that day was watching, from high in the galleries above the Senate floor, as the bill was signed into law, after years of hard work and debate.   I remember watching Senator Tom Harkin, the chief author of the law address his colleagues, the nation, and his brother Frank, not just in spoken words but in American Sign Language as well. 

The Senator described how his older brother Frank, who grew up deaf, had to live far away from his family in order to attend a boarding school specializing in education for people who are deaf. He described the discrimination Frank experienced in adulthood, while trying to find a job.  It’s an experience that many of us with disabilities in the chamber that day knew well.  Senator Harkin then turned the conversation to the future, by dedicating the passage of the ADA to the children born that day, regardless of their disability status.  It was then that tears of sorrow and hope flowed most freely. 

Over the last 22 years, the ADA has been sweeping in its impact in assuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for Americans with disabilities of all ages, races and regions.   Instead of weakening the country as some predicted it might, the ADA is continuing to strengthen America’s core value of individual freedom.  Today, due to the ADA and related laws, more students with disabilities are graduating from high school and college.  More Americans with significant disabilities are receiving the support they need to live in the community rather than languishing in institutions.  Stores, restaurants, businesses, courts, and transit systems are now readily accessible to people with a range of mobility, sensory and other disabilities.  The country’s telecommunications, 911 and other emergency preparedness systems are similarly accessible and usable by those with and without disabilities alike.  The Internet and other digital technologies are transforming barriers into opportunities in education, employment and many other facets of American life. 

President George H. W. Bush declared that the ‘shameful walls of exclusion’ must fall when he signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. Tremendous progress has been made, however to make the promise of the ADA a reality for millions of Americans with disabilities, there is still much work to be done. Barriers to full equality of opportunity persist.  This is particularly true with regard to promoting the improved long-term employment, economic self-sufficiency and genuine financial well-being of working age Americans with disabilities and their families. 

In an effort to address these discrepancies in employment opportunity, Congress created the Ticket to Work and Self Sufficiency Program. Like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Ticket program is a work in progress.  Since its inception, the program has equipped more than a quarter of million Americans with disabilities with the opportunities, life choices, services and support they need to become and remain competitively employed.  Thousands have earned their way off Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and created better lives and futures for themselves and their families.  The ADA and the Ticket are working to improve our country. 

To learn more about how Ticket to Work and Work Incentives can work for you or someone you know, please visit or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY/TDD).

<< Return to Blog


Suann says:
August 11, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Where do I need to go in Lexington (Fayette County), Kentucky for Vocational Rehab to be able to try and work? I  have a Ticket To Work.  I function well, working in gardens and landscaping.  I live close to Univ. of Ky. and there is a very good agricultural / landscaping arch. program. I would like to go to a vocational rehab school program to be trained and become employed working in gardens and landscaping. I could be independent if this could work out. I have a doctor. A psychiatrist. I don't however, know where to go for proper paperwork to go to a educ. program. Please reply. Thank You.  Suann

Choose-Work-Blog-Staff says:
August 13, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Hi Suann,
We’re happy to hear you’re interested in trying Ticket to Work! We suggest you speak with a knowledgeable representative at our Help Line who can help you find a service provider near you. Please call 1-866-968-7842 (V) / 866-833-2967 (TTY/TDD) Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. EST. Also, check out our Find Help tool ( to look for a VR that can help you. All the best on your journey to self-sufficiency!

Michael says:
August 18, 2012 at 4:18 AM

I am of the opinion that the "Ticket to Work" program is a very cruel joke!  I became Disabled as a result of an intracanial "bleed" of a large AVM on my Cerebellum that was subsequently removed.  I have problems with my balance, vision, hearing, a frozen vocal cord, bladder and deficits on my right side.  Despite all of these problems, I went back to work to a Customer Service job that I held sucessfully for eight years, but I recently was fired from because I was unable to keep up with my peers, even with resonable accomondations.

At the request of my Long Term Disability (LTD) compay, I applied for, and was granted, SSA benefits which I had to reimburse my LTD company for benefits that they had paid me.  Now, SSA wants all of the money back that they paid me, despite the fact that I was given a "Ticket to Work" on the grounds that I was not Disabled enough because I made too much money.  If the event that made me Disabled occurred more than three years ago, I was Disabled then and as I am now, and I was fired from my job because of my Disability, how could I not be Disabled enough?

The way that I see it, the ONLY thing that I did wrong was survive!

Choose-Work-Blog-Staff says:
August 20, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Hello Michael,

We’re sorry to hear about your situation and would like to help you.  Protection and Advocacy (P&A) services are free and can help you. To find a P&A project near you, visit

You may also be eligible to apply for expedited reinstatement (EXR). You may learn more at

Your best way to get started is to call our Help Line at 1-866-968-7842/866-833-2967(TTY/TDD), 
M - F 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM EST to discuss your situation with our knowledgeable representatives.

joe says:
September 23, 2014 at 1:07 AM

i would like to finish my computer  , i had 1 yr. then here come's devrce court. i would like to go into programing engineer. is that possiable ??? 

Choose-Work-Staff says:
September 25, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Hi Joe, there are a number of ways to get help achieving your career goal of becoming a programming engineer! If you are a Social Security disability beneficiary ages 18 through 64, the Ticket to Work program can connect you with free employment support services such as career counseling and job placement. Some service providers may be able to connect you to training or help you figure out how you can pay for school. Call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 866-833-2967 (TTY) to learn more. We hope this helps!