By Hillary Jackson and Jeff Saulich, Special to the Democrat, Tallahassee Democrat, Oct 8, 2012
MIAMI — It is Catrice McNeal’s friendly voice that greets callers and visitors at the Miami office of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
She has been the office’s receptionist for more than seven years.
McNeal also receives services from the agency, as she has a developmental disability. This is Disability Employment Awareness Month, when APD and other state agencies highlight Floridians with disabilities who are successfully employed in their communities.
McNeal was born in St. Augustine and has two brothers and two sisters. Her family always encouraged her to succeed. Her first job was with Old Navy, stocking merchandise and helping customers.
Since coming to work at APD’s Southern Region office in May 2005, she has learned a variety of customer service skills; chief among them is helping others. McNeal is responsible for answering the office’s main telephone line, sending and receiving faxes for staff members and assisting visitors with their concerns. She does this with a pleasant attitude while keeping up with the fast-paced office environment.
“She always directs people to where they need to go,” says Carmen Toledo, the assistant to the regional manager and McNeal’s supervisor. “Catrice is a good employee — always willing to help and very friendly. She has a good attendance record, and she is very conscientious about asking for time off well in advance. We are proud to have her on the APD team.”
Supported living coaching is one of the services McNeal receives through APD. She has enjoyed living on her own for more than 10 years.
Recently, McNeal accomplished two major goals she had set for herself. The first was to study for and obtain her driver license. After achieving that goal, she wanted to buy a car. McNeal saved her money until she achieved this goal as well.
“I am so proud of myself for just accomplishing my driver’s license and also getting a car and I did it all on my own,” McNeal says.
Now, McNeal is learning to pay all of her bills independently. She enjoys baking, cooking and watching movies. When asked what she enjoys most about living on her own, she exclaimed, “Freedom!”
McNeal loves her job, and appreciates the opportunity that was provided to her more than seven years ago. “All I want is to say thank you to the APD staff that believed in me when no one else believed in me,” McNeal says.
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1-866-273-2273.