The vaccine for polio was not widely available until 1955, which unfortunately was a bit too late for little Mario James Ferrante, born November 21st, 1952. Mario contracted polio in 1953, at only 8 months old. As typical of that era, Mario was confined to a hospital for much of his first four years to receive care from nurses, and isolate him with other polio patients. His family only visited once a week, typically Sunday afternoon, leaving young Mario for long bouts of time by himself.
It is important to understand the motivation for writing this autographical account. In no way are these stories meant to diminish or dismiss the daily challenges and traumas faced by individuals with handicaps. Mario himself lived many years with deep emotional wounds from the daily rejection, insults, and crushed dreams faced as an individual confined to a wheelchair. While Mario continues to face difficulties, he has an expressed desire in this life stage to live a life filled with joy, gratitude, and humor instead of bitterness, sadness, and depression. It is a daily struggle and a daily balance that Mario has chosen to face.
As I personally witnessed him face numerous daily challenges and insults, I attempted to relieve some of Mario’s distress by helping him see the humor in them despite some outrageous behavior from others. I encouraged him to recollect these stories and permit a broader audience to look into the life of a true champion for the disabled. And yes, along the way we cannot help but laugh at some of the predicaments, comments, attitudes and outcomes of his most interesting life.
-Jill Alonzo, a friend
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
So You Want My Handicapped Parking Place? is a wonderful collection of autobiographical stories that help to illustrate what life is really like for those who live life from the confines of a wheelchair. Sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking, these tales help to explain the daily challenges that those of us who are ambulatory never think about, such as what to do when your wheelchair rolls away, or how to navigate a crowded sidewalk without colliding into baby strollers.
Woven in are explanations of how the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 helped to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans, and discussions of things that still need improvement. Perhaps most importantly, this book offers a gentle reminder to parents and students that we ought to respect the privacy and needs of our differently-abled brothers and sisters and that we ought to treat them with the same consideration and respect that we expect for ourselves.
Jennifer E. Walsh, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Professor of Political Science
Azusa Pacific University
Without question, Mario Ferrante’s outstanding book has answered countless questions I’ve had for years about those with disabilities. Not the least of which is, “Why does Mario have such a tremendous attitude towards life with all the challenges he’s faced?”
If you’re looking for an honest, heart-warming resource to help you, your class, your church, your leadership team, or home-school group understand what it really means to take someone’s handicapped parking space – this is one incredible, insightful, funny, inspiring book.
John Trent, Ph.D.
President, The Center for Strong Families
and author of the million selling book, The Blessing
My friend Mario Ferrante is an ordinary person. He is also a hero. When his life was unfair and he encountered physical obstacles and challenges the like of which have “crippled” so many others, he faced those challenges and not only overcame them but excelled, reaching personal and professional achievements to which others merely aspire. Despite the seen and unseen pain and suffering he endured, by sharing his story and his experiences in So You Want My Handicapped Parking Place?, he has forged a path that enables many to have an opportunity to understand and develop sensitivity and appreciation for the needs of the men and women with physical disabilities.
Beginning in 2001, as an adjunct instructor, teaching Human Resource Management on the graduate level at a private university in Southern California, I sought a meaningful way for my students to experience and gain a practical understanding of the issues that they would encounter and would affect them in the workplace as HR professionals. It was at this time that I invited Mario Ferrante to speak on the topic of “Diversity and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” This book shares some of his stories and permits a glimpse into the very real lives of Mario Ferrante and his dynamic family. You will be enriched as you read and allow these experiences to affect you too.
Jody L. Bomba, M.A., SPHR
Associate Vice President of Human Resources
University of La Verne