By RODNEY HART
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A simple request and the willingness to do something has gone further than Quincy resident Bert Jeffery ever thought.
Jeffery was the guest speaker at Thursday's West Central Illinois Center For Independent Living Americans With Disabilities Act celebration at the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center. The CIL combined its ADA celebration this year with the West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging Senior Expo, and several thousand people streamed through the first floor of the Seventh and York facility.
Jeffery talked about going to a local business and noticing his wife couldn't fit in the waiting area seats. His wife, Elleina, struggles with obesity and other issues, and she was embarrassed when she had to sit in another section of the store.
So Jeffery addressed the situation with the store manager. Today, the store and eight other branches have bigger seats to accommodate larger people.
"One person can effect change for others," Jeffery said. "A lot of people say, ‘I wish I could do something.' Well, you are that somebody and you can do something about it."
Jeffery has chronic back pain and can't work, so he knows a bit about people who struggle with disabilities. He was talking about his story with Joe Pashka of the CIL when Pashka suggested his actions had a far-reaching effect.
"He told me it was going to be bigger than me, my wife, everything," Jeffery said.
CIL Executive Director Glenda Hackemack said Jeffery's story proves one person can make a difference.
"For a lot of businesses, if they aren't aware of the issues, nothing will change," she said. "He did it not only for his wife but for others, because the word tends to spread and people will hear about it."
The CIL supports people with disabilities and addresses equal access issues in society. Hackemack handed out the agency's "Bumble Bee" award in memory of Jordan Pyatt to Carthage resident Amelia Russell, and the Accessible Entity of the Year award to the Quincy Public Library, which recently dedicated its remodeled and expanded facility.
The Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law 22 years ago. Hackemack said this country has made huge strides since, though plenty of work remains.
"We have more opportunities and more access and more services available for those with disabilities so they can lead a more normal life," she said.
The CIL is now located inside the Quincy Senior and Family Center. Combining the Senior Expo with the ADA celebration is a natural fit, organizers say.
About 75 vendors ranging from area businesses to medical and social service agencies had booths. Screenings were made available for diabetes, vision and other items.
"All the vendors here offer the same kind of services to the same kind of people we both serve," Area on Aging Executive Director Lynn Niewohner said. "We make good partners because many of our people are disabled and all of their people deal with disabilities."