FUELCALL: Helping Disabled Drivers

Most gas stations are self serve which means getting the attention of someone to help you fill up your tank isn’t easy.  Some drivers have to honk their horns or flash their lights.  But it could be as easy as pressing a button.  At least, that’s what Jayde Henry hopes.

At six months old, she was involved in a head on collision crash.

“At first they thought that I was paralyzed from the neck down and then I started moving my hands and my arms and so I`m a paraplegic so I have no feeling whatsoever in my legs,” says Henry.

She was five when she got her first wheelchair and hasn`t slowed down since.  Whether it`s walking her dog, shooting hoops or winning the 2012 Ms. Wheelchair Iowa title, there are few obstacles that get in her way.

“Oh yes.  I love to drive.  I will go anywhere,” says Henry.

Hand controls on her modified truck make it possible to go anywhere.  Until it comes time to fill up.

“I`m always having to yell out my window going, excuse me, can you help me?  Most of the times I get huh?”

“The expectation is that whether you’re disabled or not, you’re able to go in and get whatever accommodations you need or get whatever goods you need,” says Mike Williams.

Williams works in the Office of Persons with Disabilities.  Under the Americans with Disability Act or ADA, gas stations must provide refueling assistance when two or more workers are on duty.  That isn’t always the case.

“They kind of have to look around and see is this place going to be compliant for me and they may have to move on down the road and find something else.  That’s a little frustrating for them.  This lessens the frustration,” says Williams.

So do the new design requirements at the pump.  In September 2010, stations were told to lower all payment buttons from 54 inches to 48 inches.  The deadline to make the change was march of this year.

“It`s a big challenge, particularly for the small, what we call mom and pops,” says Dawn Carlson.

Carlson represents all of the state`s gas stations and convenience stores and advises them on the requirements of ADA.

“There`s regulations inside the convenience store, there`s regulations outside for fueling dispenser on the height and how you get someone to come out and help you,” says Carlson.

But one problem with the federal law is that it doesn`t say how gas stations provide that help.

“Every convenience store is going to have a different method of complying with ADA,” says Carlson.

And some are better than others.  At the Hy-Vee on Army Post Road, Henry knows when she pulls up to the designated pump and pushes the oversized call button, someone will answer.

“If you need any help, I can come out there,” says the voice on the other end.

“Yes I do.  I need gas please.  I`m in a wheelchair,” says Henry.

It’s that simple.  FuelCall connects the driver at the pump with the attendant at the register so the driver doesn’t have to get out of their car.  The call button sits lower to the ground and closer to the driver making it well within reach.

Iowa is one of 23 states using the FuelCall system.  It’s found at 85 gas stations across the state.  Hy-Vee stores are leading the way.  The grocer paid to install fuel call at nearly all of its 107 gas stations in the Midwest, at a cost of about $1200 a piece.

Other stations are using a help button on the keypad to comply with ADA regulations, but it’s higher up and a lot smaller.

“We can`t reach it from our vehicles.  They`re still not disabled friendly,” says Henry.

“If you pull up at a gas station and you try to get gas or try to get someone to come out and help you and they don’t do it, then of course you’re not doing enough.  But if you pull up and follow through whatever their instructions may be and they come out and pump your gas, then you’re getting what you need,” says Williams.

“It`s happening more and more.  It`s not certainly not, there`s not 100% compliance,” says Carlson.

Whether she wears the crown or not, Ms. Wheelchair Iowa 2012 is on a mission to get fuel call at gas stations wherever her wheels take her.

“I`m more determined than anything to get it done,” says Henry.

Drivers can report cases of non-compliance to the Department of Justice.  The Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa say you can contact them as well.

REFUELING RIGHTS

This is the link to file an ADA complaint: http://www.ada.gov/enforce.htm#anchor218282

This is the contact information for the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa: http://www.pmcofiowa.com/contact-us-directions.cfm

FuelCall Mapping App: http://fuelcall.cloudapp.net/Location

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