PEKIN — Like most people, Perry Martin never thought about the difficulties disabled people face until an unthinkable accident nearly cost him his life.
Though he’s able to use a walker now, a horrific industrial accident in 2008 put Martin in a wheelchair for awhile. The first time he tried to go for a roll through his neighborhood was an eye-opening experience.
“I just about catapulted myself out of the wheelchair going down a driveway because there weren’t any curb cuts. There was a nursing home across the street, and I had seen people in wheelchairs out there, but it never occurred to me they needed curb cuts to be able to go safely across the street,” Martin said.
When he called city hall to talk about the issue, Martin learned about the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities. Now he’s one of nine members of the committee, whose goal is to represent and promote the interests of disabled community members.
Martin and other committee members, some who are disabled and others who work with the disabled, are trying to spread awareness about the committee.
“Any one of us tomorrow could be in the category of disabled,” committee member Libby Holbrook, vice president of clinical and business services for the Tazewell County Resource Center, said at the committee’s May meeting. “Being more aware of what’s available and out there before you need it is important.”
Pamela Anderson, the city’s community development director and liaison for the committee, was unsure when the committee was first formed but said it was redesignated as an active committee in 2006.
“This group is very active, and they have accomplished a lot of great things,” Anderson said.
Highlights include facilitating curb cuts throughout the city; working with CityLink to provide para-transit services for the disabled; and working with the police department to identify all handicapped parking spots in Pekin and helping them become ADA compliant.
The committee has also worked with the fire department to install special smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for the hearing impaired and helped ensure traffic lights have an audible component for the vision impaired.
The committee attends Pekin Community High School’s annual Wellness Day activity for to raise awareness about disabilities. With the theme “Life Goes On,” the committee offers hands-on activities to help the students understand what it’s like to be disabled and that dreams are achievable with or without a disability.
One activity has students try to walk with a walker after their legs are bound to simulate a stroke. Martin’s friend, Brenden Quinn of Bloomington, usually brings his Action Traction chair that allows him to continue to participate in bow hunting after being paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident.
“One of the highlights was when Brenden secured a wheelchair-bound high school student in the Action Traction chair, which allows the person to stand up. The student was wheelchair bound for his entire life, and it was the first time he was able to stand up,” Anderson said. “He went on a ride in the halls for about 20 minutes, grinning from ear to ear.”
Because the committee is advisory, it doesn’t have a line item in the city budget. However, Holbrook noted, “We’ve made a lot of impact without having a line item.”
The public is encouraged to contact the committee with any questions or concerns relating to the disabled. “We try to pull the right people together to solve the issues that are brought to us,” Holbrook said.
The committee meets every other month on the second Thursday at 4 p.m. in council chambers.
The next committee meeting will be at 4 p.m. July 13 at the council chambers in city hall. The public is invited to all meetings or they can contact Pamela Anderson at (309) 478-5356 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our goal is to help people realize if you do have a disability, life does go on and you can still do things that you enjoy,” Martin said.
“And you do have a voice,” Holbrook added.