Celebrating 100 VR Stories: Joe Xavier

Photo of Joe Xavier in front of a tractor.
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.

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