The State Worker

People with disabilities tell their stories on California state audioblog

Devin Johnson suffered a devastating neck injury before contacting the Department of Rehabilitation in 2013. He’s now working toward an accounting degree.
Devin Johnson suffered a devastating neck injury before contacting the Department of Rehabilitation in 2013. He’s now working toward an accounting degree. Department of Rehabilitation

It’s one thing to hear about someone overcoming adversity. It’s another thing entirely to hear them tell their stories in their own words.

Which is why the Department of Rehabilitation last week launched NoticeAbilities.com, an audioblog where people talk about how they have dealt with their disabilities and how the state assisted them with things like finding a job or getting an education. Among the life stories recounted on the website:

▪ Haben Girma, who earned a Harvard law degree after Rehabilitation officials helped her with the technology and training she needed to attend school without the ability to see or hear.

▪ Jennifer Jones, manager of consumer affairs in the Santa Clara Mental Health Department, who found help for her own mental illness with a referral from Rehabilitation officials.

▪ Devin Johnson, who sought the department’s help in 2013 after a devastating neck injury. He’s now in school for his accounting degree.

Spokeswoman Michelle Basso Reynolds said that Rehabilitation started the blog to give clients “a safe place to talk about the department and their experience” and to differentiate the agency’s vocational work from, say, services offered by the state prison and parole system.

Unlike many state websites that are cluttered monuments to management or mission, NoticeAbilities.com uses a simple Squarespace template and the SoundCloud audio player to spotlight nine people served by the Department of Rehabilitation. The web account costs the state less than $200 per year, Reynolds said.

The site will add one story per month, Reynolds said, and may eventually include testimonials from employers of department clients.

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