Gary 'Tiger' Balletto addresses handicapped parking issues

In photos posted to his Facebook page that has gone viral, former champion boxer Gary "Tiger" Balletto shows a Jeep that was parked in the painted line area next to a handicapped spot, where he was parked, inside the garage at the Providence Place Mall Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018.

Former boxing champion and Cranston resident Gary "Tiger" Balletto is fighting a new opponent these days: ignorance.

In a photo posted to his Facebook page that has gone viral, Balletto shows a Jeep that was parked in the painted line area next to a handicapped spot, where he was parked, inside the garage at the Providence Place Mall Sunday.

“I think a lot of people are not totally aware of that’s what the lines are there for," Balletto told NBC 10 News Monday evening. “It’s equivalent to a handicapped parking space. It’s the same thing.”

Balletto has been using a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a tragic accident in 2013. He drives an accessible van with a ramp that comes out of the side.

He said he needs about six feet of space to be able to get up that ramp and into the van with his wheelchair.

Balletto and his family had to wait for police to call mall security to report to the scene. By the time they got there, the Jeep was gone. Balletto and his family had been waiting indoors, out of the cold temperatures in the garage.

Balletto said even though he was with others, he’s the only one that can drive the van.

“Nobody can drive this -- the wheelchair is the seat," he said. “You’d have to stand up, try to use the hand controls that you’re not trained to useit’s kind of like learning to drive all over again.”

Balletto said he just wants people to be aware of the needs of the handicapped and understand how the handicapped parking spaces are used.

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