IOWA — If you pull up next to Kim Richman at a stoplight, she looks like any other driver. It’s what you can’t see that makes every single trip special for her. 

Kim has a hereditary condition that’s robbed her of her ability to walk, and getting a mobility van five years ago changed her life. 

“That technology has given me such independence,” she said. “I’ve absolutely loved that. I remember the first trip to the grocery store I had a list and I was so excited.”

It didn’t take long for the excitement to wear off. Kim quickly realized finding a parking spot was going to be the most challenging part of every outing. 

“I just keep driving and driving and I’m so frustrated! I feel like this independence that I was so excited about was ruined. I was just crushed,” she said.

More than 300,000 Iowans have mobility-related disabilities, which shows the need for why one out of every ten parking spaces should be mobility accessible. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, parking lots with 25 parking spaces must have one handicapped spot and one van accessible spot. That ratio changes depending on the size of the parking lot. If 100 spots are available, the number of required handicapped spots increases to four, while the number of van accessible spots remains at just one. A second van accessible spot is only required for lots with more than 300 total spaces.

Kim said there definitely needs to be more handicapped spaces, but she also said the signs should read ‘Van Parking Only’ instead of ‘Van Accessible’. 

“It’s frustrating when it takes longer to park than it does to get groceries,” she explained. “And sometimes I can’t get groceries at all because I can’t park.”

Kim has taken her concerns to the Governor’s Office and was told to contact her state legislators. Dr. Austin Baeth will be representing Kim when the session starts in January, and he said he plans to introduce a bill to address the issues she is facing.

“In an advanced society such as ours we should be making our community accessible to people of all abilities,” he said. “We have the resources, we just have to put the will there.”

Kim hopes the bill passes, so she can once again feel the excitement that comes with independence. 

“I wish people would understand when they see handicapped parking signs that there is a story behind every person who’s handicapped,” she said.