Do the pumps in your area measure up?
“I always have my husband go to get gas for me… it can be a real pain going to fill up.”
The able-bodied person can go to just about any gas station in the United States and the process to fill up the tank will be the same. They simply get out of the car, truck or SUV, swipe the credit card (or go inside with cash) and in less than five minutes time they are on their way to the next destination. But what if you are in a wheelchair? That process is much different depending on where you go and whether the operating buttons are at accessible height. If the keypad isn’t at a lower height, like the one shown above, they are nearly impossible to reach from a wheelchair. A station with eight pumps may have one with a keypad at a lower height, below 54″ to meet ADA compliance standards — but that doesn’t help with getting in and out of the vehicle. Many stations have a sticker on the pump with a “call for assistance” phone number. But, they are often out of service, no one inside picks up the phone, or it goes to a toll-free 800 number that rings to a remote call center. The process can be described as something that much less than world-class customer service.
For many individuals, refueling means honking the horn to get an attendant’s attention or waiting to ask another station customer for help. Some of our clients told us they have a friend or family member tag along for the ride whenever they need a refuel. “I always have my husband go to get gas for me” said one woman. That’s not always very convenient, especially when travelling. For those who drive a non-converted vehicle with hand controls, assembling and disassembling the wheelchair to get in and out can be a very time-consuming process. Fortunately, there is a better solution that is starting to take hold.
Fuel Call® is the product name of Inclusion Solutions wireless assistance technology that provides the person in a wheelchair with a very a simple, easy way of contacting a gas station attendant. There is no obscure phone number to call. An ADA compliant push-button, positioned at exactly 48″ high directly beside the pump, signals a device inside the station. It has a distinctive ring-tone and flashes a strobe light to let the attendant know there is someone needing help at a pump. It is currently being used at more than 500 stations throughout the country.
Advocacy and Legislation
Getting buy-in from the station owners to make the investment hasn’t been easy. Patrick Hughes, Founder and CEO of Inclusion Solutions says that most owners see placing a sticker on a pump with a phone number as being all that’s needed to be compliant. Whether the call is being answered 100% of the time and assistance is being provided in a timely manner is another story. For Hughes, his products are more about providing better service and retaining good customers. “Why wouldn’t you want that?” – says Hughes. Accessibility has been his passion since becoming friends in college with a fellow student who had cerebral palsy. His other self-designed solutions provide a similar service for restaurants and stores that don’t have an accessible ramp or automatic door. Big Bell™ alerts staff inside that assistance is needed at the door. They typically come out with a portable ramp to go over a threshold or step that can’t easily be removed or redesigned. At least it provides a method of accessibility.
Florida’s Broward County just recently passed a law requiring that gas stations post a phone number on gas pumps or provide an intercom system like Fuel Call® so that drivers can ask for help with refueling. A service station employee is then required by law to offer help. The movement is also picking up some steam with advocacy groups as well. Representatives with the Paralyzed Veterans Association (PVA) and members of congress are also working toward better gas station accessibility and service. Everyone agrees that honking horns and calling disconnected 800 numbers needs to be a thing of the past.
What’s Your Gas Station Story? Good or Bad…
Do you honk the horn, have a favorite gas station or attendant, have a friend come along for the ride, roll down the window and ask a passer-by for help — or just grin and bear it, getting in and out spending more time at a gas station than most people do to eat their lunch? Let us know on our Facebook page.