VR100 STORIES

June 2, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Vocational Rehabilitation. Signed into law on June 2, 1920, by President Woodrow Wilson, the Smith-Fess Act of 1920 (also known as the Industrial Rehabilitation Act and referred to as The National Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act), was the first federally funded program to assist people with disabilities who had not acquired their disabilities through military service.

To celebrate we are sharing personal stories about how VR services have made a difference in the lives of Californians with disabilities.


Woman smiling sitting in a car

Sierra Crislip

DOR Consumer

Tell us about you?

I am a current DOR consumer and am in a secured job with a job coach. I am trying new things and trying to find the right career path! I am an author of 2 published books, and I hope to continue sharing my experiences and spreading the word. My first book I wrote, Weird Girl with a Tumor, is a biography about real life experiences I endured and living with epilepsy, seizures, getting bullied, keeping a job, etc. My most recent published book is Tessa Teaches Kindness. The main character in the story has epilepsy that the other students cannot see. I wrote it based on my true-life experiences and wanted to share and teach the experience through the eyes of a child. I was inspired to write them because of all my past trauma I’ve been through. I wanted to tell my story and help others not feel so alone. My disability is invisible, and no one can see it, so by sharing my experiences and life trauma with others in a book, it helps them understand me more!

How have VR Services impacted you?

VR has helped me grow and learn from mistakes. I feel more grown and confident with myself and know that I will find my career path. It has always been a challenge for me to keep steady employment in the past, but with the help and support with DOR, they have helped me so much and I don’t feel as much anxiety or worry about my job being in jeopardy. DOR has helped to put me in line with a secured job and job coach. Having a counselor to speak to and get advice from has also been life-changing for me, as it gave me options to explore many career paths for myself and really get to know myself in the process. I feel a little braver in who I am, and I do not have as many fears as I used to. With DOR, I feel extra safe and secure and even though I have a learning disability and still struggle with communication skills, I know that my counselor and DOR are just an email/phone call away. I have learned to speak up when issues happen and being a part of DOR services has helped me tremendously!

What does 100 years of VR mean to you?

Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a wall, it will grow up believing it is stupid!


Man wearing black rimmed glasses and a blue button up shirt

Steven Ching

DOR Consumer

Tell us about you?

I am a consumer of the Department of Rehabilitation. My aspirations for getting into film stems from the same age I was diagnosed with permanent monocular vision. My right eye was blind, but I still had the viewfinder up to my left eye at 10 years old. I carried my family camcorder everywhere I went and spent my life savings on Hi8 cassettes. I continued pursuing film with my YouTube channel in 6th grade, then started a film club at my High School. In college, I became a consumer of DOR and received equipment and tools to further help me down the path to becoming a Hollywood filmmaker! I graduated in 2017 from the film program at Sacramento State University with Magna Cum Laude honors, and currently do freelance films and photography.

How have VR Services impacted you?

Getting a job to me is a signifier of independence, achievement, redemption, and pride. As a person with a disability, I try not to let my limitations define me, but rather be qualities that make me a unique candidate. I will always work twice as hard in order to compete in an already difficult market. Currently, I am applying for a stable job as a Television Specialist in order to work in the field of my passion and get the opportunity to build a future of success with my family.

What does 100 years of VR mean to you?

To 100 years of helping us find ourselves through gratifying work.


Man standing in front of a green tractor with yellow wheel that is almost as tall as him

Joe Xavier

DOR Director

Tell us about you?

I was born in a house with no electricity and no plumbing. I am 1 of 8 kids, and I’m the only one with a disability. I am also an immigrant who needed to learn the language and culture. I grew up in agriculture with the expectation I would work. I was a child, teenager, and young adult with very poor eyesight. I was introduced to DOR services in my sophomore year in high school. I spent 14 years self-employed selling bacon/eggs and burgers/fries, and now I have 22 years in public administration.

How have VR Services impacted you?

Today I am a husband, father, and grandfather. Work allowed me to move out of poverty, it gave me the opportunity to own my home, rather than rent the home, and the opportunity to worry about my retirement plan rather than my public benefits. I was once asked if growing up I envisioned that I would become the Director of the DOR, which could not have been further from anything I could have conceived. Because so many people believed in me, I am honored to be included in a list of the distinguished company of Directors. While I would not compare myself to Ed Roberts, he was appointed by Governor Brown in his first governorship, and I was appointed by Governor Brown in his second governorship. Being in the same sentence with an icon like Ed Roberts is surreal, and ironically, when Roberts engaged DOR he was told he was unemployable. Twenty years later, I was made to believe I could accomplish anything, even though I did not believe it myself.

What does 100 years of VR mean to you?

VR means to me that we have evolved from "you can’t …, you will not be able to …" to where we are today. We believe in the talent and potential of individuals with disabilities, and we will leave no one behind, exception none. In the next 100 years, we will be out of business because all individuals with disabilities will be employed, independent, enjoy social acceptance, and have achieved equality.