Employment — On the Road with Ticket to Work

Circa 2005

For many people with disabilities, the job search is a challenge of epic proportions. The search for that elusive job that is a good match for one’s particular skill sets and interests can make anyone feel like David facing off with Goliath. But there is hope for job seekers with disabilities: through its Ticket to Work program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has created tools that are significantly more substantial than a slingshot and stone.

The Ticket to Work program is free and voluntary. It supports individuals with disabilities throughout the process of employment by acting as a safety net until they are certain they’ve found the right job. Ticket to Work aims to increase choice in rehabilitation and vocational services, remove barriers that require people with disabilities to choose between health care coverage and work, and provide more people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the workforce.

As part of the program, eligible participants receive a ticket in the mail. Ticket-holders redeem their tickets for services from public or private providers in their local communities, including state vocational rehabilitation agencies, employer networks, and similar agencies working to help people with disabilities enter the workforce.

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This year, SSA is taking the program a step further by organizing a 10-city Ticket to Work Conference and Expo tour giving event participants—beneficiaries, employers and service providers—a better understanding of the Ticket to Work program and the ways that the tickets are useful for landing fulfilling and rewarding employment. By showcasing services and products that support people with disabilities, the expositions aim to make the process of finding the right job manageable and straightforward for ticket-holders. Key participants throughout the tour include Allstate Insurance Company, America Online, Cingular Wireless, Continental Airlines, Hyatt Hotels, IBM, IDX, JP Morgan Chase, Major League Baseball, Microsoft, Monster.com, Pathmark and Prudential Financial.

“Ticket to Work was created to help Social Security disability beneficiaries who want to work to achieve their employment goals,” says Jo Anne Barnhart, commissioner of Social Security. “The Ticket to Work Conferences and Expos provide a comprehensive, localized approach to helping people with disabilities find the right jobs for them, no matter where they are in the process.”

Each one-day expo is free to attendees and introduces beneficiaries to the employment search process and the how-to of interviewing and applying for positions, providing strategies to obtain rewarding and successful employment. Tom Sullivan, an actor, singer, entertainer, author and producer who was born blind, is the keynote speaker at the events. His presentation tells the story of his personal experiences as an Olympic-class wrestler, avid snow skier and marathon runner, and offers encouragement and advice for job-seekers.

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Says Sullivan, “I’m thrilled to be attending each and every one of the Ticket to Work Expos because I know they will help provide real skills and opportunities to people with disabilities—people just like me.”

In addition to Sullivan’s address, the expositions offer a number of career opportunities and informational sessions to help people advance. Attendees have the freedom to attend sessions or explore the exhibition area.

Sessions include a Ticket to Work program overview with an explanation of how Social Security benefits evolve once ticket-holders return to work; career counseling and interview strategies that are specific to the Americans with Disabilities Act; and tips, tools and resume-building pointers to shape a successful employment search.

The expo floor, mirroring the employment process, offers opportunities for attendees to meet one-on-one with representatives from Social Security, benefit counselors and potential employers. It starts with an introduction to the Ticket to Work program, then moves to individualized meetings with benefits specialists, conversations with employment service providers and, finally, introductions to local and national employers.

The Ticket to Work Conference and Expo tour is about more than helping people with disabilities find jobs—it is about helping individuals build careers based on their talents, skills and interests.



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