Creating Community For People With Special Needs

Sep 12, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 percent of Americans live with a disability.

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick introduces us to Jennie Stokes, an activities specialist at High Sierra Industries in Reno. Stokes helps people with special needs get out into the community.

First, Stokes offers a tour of the facility.

“Every Wednesday we have a yoga instructor come in and she works specifically with people with disabilities to do an adaptive yoga program.”

Stationary bikes are available for those who wish to use them.
Credit Jennie Stokes / High Sierra Industries

“Every day of the week, we do art from 9-10. The art projects vary anywhere from really cool driftwood hanging pieces to canvas paintings to watercolors.”

Stokes also talks about what it was like growing up with a disability.

“So me personally, being born with a disability—I have a right prosthetic leg and a shorter right arm—I myself have faced that feeling where I’m not necessarily part of the community, almost having to show my worth to the community. And I feel like that’s definitely a hurdle for a lot of people who may have a disability and don’t know how to get started with getting involved with their community.”

“So when I was in middle school, I had experienced for the first time a feeling that I was different than my peers, where now everything became an issue about image and how you looked and who you hung out with. And I had realized that, ‘Oh, I guess I am disabled and I have this disability and it really puts a big neon sign on my head that says I’m weird or I’m different.’”  

She says these experiences helped her get involved with her community—something she hopes to give to those she works with.

“Growing up with a disability myself and then being able to overcome that and be a part of my community is an amazing feeling and I only wish that I can spread that feeling to everybody that I work with every day.”

Stokes says she takes groups of people with disabilities out into the community every day, and encourages the public to come up and ask questions.

“We’re going to be out there all the time every day, and it’s ok if your kids ask, ‘Why is that person in a wheelchair?’ ‘What’s wrong with her leg?’ Don’t shelter your children from asking those questions. Don’t shelter yourself from asking those questions. It’s ok to be curious.”