APD News Release:
TALLAHASSEE, FL--- When the managers of APD's Tallahassee office were looking for a receptionist, they knew they wanted to hire a self-advocate. They found the perfect match in Katie Bowman, who has a disability and was already receiving services from the agency.
During October, which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, APD is highlighting the stories of Floridians like Bowman who are
enjoying richer lives through employment and participation in their communities.
"Katie is much more than a receptionist, she's the first point of
contact people have with our office", said Lynne Daw, administrator of the Tallahassee APD office. "We needed someone who could not only handle the number of visitors and volume of phone calls we receive daily, but, more importantly, someone who could project a positive image of the agency to the public."
Bowman was hired by the agency in 2007. Shy and reticent, with almost no office skills, at first she relied heavily on her co-workers and
employment consultant, and panicked when too many calls lit up her phone.
That was a year ago. What changed? Through her own determination,
Bowman stepped out of her comfort zone to learn all she could about her job responsibilities. She began to ask questions and make suggestions on how to do her job more efficiently. As she became familiar with her job and made friends at the office, her confidence and even her personality blossomed---all within the first several months of employment.
"I'm a totally different person, now," Bowman said. "I've just opened
up and I am really connecting with people. I'm so much happier."
That is the kind of difference that a job can make in the life of
someone with a disability. Co-workers were so impressed that they nominated her as the 2008 Supported Employee of the Year, an award sponsored by the Association for Persons in Supported Employment (APSE).
"It surprised me," Bowman said after winning the award. "It made me
feel really good inside."
To celebrate the occasion, Bowman was honored by her colleagues with a surprise party at the office. The event not only highlighted Bowman's accomplishments, but more importantly, the friendships she has formed on the job.
"I love my job," Bowman exclaimed. "I love to be around a whole bunch
of people and get to talk to them. And I enjoy helping other people to get
services through our agency."
Recently, Bowman demonstrated her passion for helping others in a very visible way when she showed up for work sporting a much shorter hairstyle. She had cut off her long hair and donated it to Locks of Love, an organization that makes hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children who have long-term hair loss due to a variety of medical conditions.
"I always feel good when I think I've helped someone," Bowman beamed.
Earlier this month, when two local Tallahassee APD offices merged,
Bowman had to adjust to a new work site, as well as increased job duties. Yet she seems to have taken all of these changes in stride.
"On the first day in the new office, Katie seemed a little unsure of
herself," Daw said. "But now she has quickly mastered the new phone
system, as well as the office intercom. The positive changes in Katie
are clearly evident."
Bowman now is more talkative and willing to share her experiences with others. When asked if she would be willing to speak publicly about her job at a Disability Employment Awareness Month event, the once shy Bowman said without hesitation, "Sure, count me in!"
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and
work in their communities. For more information about the Agency for
Persons with Disabilities, visit www.apdcares.org or call toll-free 1-