Tonawanda father raising awareness for disabled son


TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — One Tonawanda Family is raising awareness for those who are disabled, by sharing their own story. The message; not to park in handicapped parking spots.

James Parisi is a caring, charismatic three-year-old boy. He was diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy at just five months.

“He’s never been able to put weight on his legs and he won’t ever be able to,” said his father, Anthony Parisi. “So the wheelchair is his only way to get around.”

That wheelchair and his mobility van help James get where he wants to go. “He can’t experience the world like a typical kid does, so it’s important to bring him to the experience. Because of that, we spend a lot of time on parks, playgrounds,” said Parisi.

Once a week, James takes part in The Miracle League, A National Baseball Program for individuals with special needs.

“As we were leaving on this high of having a really great day at the park, we get to the van and we find a vehicle parked in the blue stripes spot, next to the van accessible spot,” said Parisi. “This prevented us from being able to get him in his chair.”

That made for a long, frustrating end to an otherwise fun day. “James obviously has myself and my wife to be able to move him around but there’s hundreds of drivers on the road, driving adaptive vehicles and relying only on themselves,” said Parisi. ” They won’t be able to get into the vehicle until the car moves.”

In an effort to spread awareness, he shared what happened on social media, where he was able to educate many people on the issue. “The response I get is, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know what those spots were for, I had no idea, I’ll be more mindful,'” he said.

Parisi says leaving that space open, is one small step toward inclusion. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to create a better world for James and others with disabilities like him, especially the younger ones,” said Parisi. “As they grow up we want to make sure they are surrounded by people that know them, care for them and really look out for them.”

If you’re interested in learning more, head here.

Gabrielle Mediak is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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