Dr. Joe Niamtu, along with his wife, April Niamtu, longtime honorary spokesparents for the Greater Richmond ARC, was named "Correspondent of the Day" on November 12, 2009, by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The editorial page of the RTD published an open letter Dr. Niamtu wrote on those who abouse parking in handicap sparking spaces.
The letter, in its entirety, is as follows:
Leave Handicapped Spaces for Disabled
In a lazy society where patrons will drive around the mall for 15 minutes to find a convenient parking space, some able-bodied drivers illegally take handicapped spaces. Although that is morally and legally wrong, a much more serious picture exists. I am the father of two young handicapped sons with severe disabilities (and I am a spokesperson for Greater Richmond ARC). Our family has too often gone to local malls and Maymont Park only to find a vehicle without handicapped identification occupying the only space where we can unload wheelchairs with a ramp from a handicapped van.
On several occasions, one of the few pleasures that my children are able to enjoy has been canceled due to illegal handicapped parking. Not only is it an inconvenience for disabled people, but many citizens with disabilities may need to return to their car during an outing for medication, feedings, or hygiene reasons. They simply have to be in close proximity.
In this society, it is not difficult to obtain a handicapped permit from one's doctor. Many people who have handicapped permits have relatively minor disabilities and could easily park a little bit further away and still make it to the mall.
I would implore anyone possessing a handicapped permit to think first that some child or adult with a serious disability may need that space; and going to the park or the mall may be one of the only things that these people can do. I would also remind physicians to be very selective about casually issuing handicapped permits. Doctors have an obligation to disabled citizens to reserve these valuable permits for those who absolutely cannot walk the short distance of a parking lot.
Societies are judged by how they treat those less fortunate, and saving a few steps for some may mean another boring day at home for others. Please be considerate for your fellow disabled citizens.
Joe Niamtu III.