In 1990, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act instituted protections from discrimination by employers with 15 or more workers on the payroll. This landmark law prohibited discrimination in job applications, hiring, firing, compensation, and other areas. The Hoosiers with Disabilities Act of 1992 amended Indiana civil rights law accordingly. Like its federal counterpart, the Act ensures that individuals with disabilities are not denied equal opportunity in employment, requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations.
Earlier civil rights legislation had arrived with the federal Rehabilitation Act in 1973. Section 504 made it illegal for entities receiving federal assistance to discriminate on basis of disability. The Education of All Handicap Children Act of 1975 followed, mandating a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate to the student's needs. “It created the ability to graduate thousands of students with disabilities,” observed Jim Hammond, retired CEO of the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. Also in his 2013 interview he points out that, buried deep in the Act, were provisions “creating supportive employment ability for students to transition from school to work to independent living.” Those little clauses, in a paragraph here and a paragraph there, were really some of the forerunners for the way modern day rehabilitation services are planned and designed and paid for today in the era of Medicaid.”
The 1998 Workforce Investment Act was designed to consolidate, coordinate, and improve employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs. A federal act, its provisions are delivered via statewide and local workforce investment systems.
The Ticket to Work Program, administered by the Social Security Administration, became available in the state of Indiana three years after passage of the federal Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvements Act in 1999. Work incentives are key for people receiving Social Security, allowing them to pursue economic independence without jeopardizing their public benefits. “Ticket to Work was a fabulous program in theory -- it truly was,” says retired Indiana Disability Rights staff member Sue Beecher. “There's always been this balancing act, that if I made too much money, then my Social Security, then I'd lose that, and it's not so much maybe the funds that I lose. But it's my Medicaid and my health insurance.”
“One thing in Indiana that we have been a leader in, in the past decade, has been that our state Vocational Rehabilitation agency has supported a network of benefits information specialists,” Connie Ferrell stated during her 2015 interview. The Indiana network supplemented the U.S. Social Security work incentive specialists and associated training and certification, a program that Connie says was underfunded.