It can take many hours and thousands of dollars to get back to driving after paralysis. There are challenges for drivers with disabilities such as learning to use adaptive equipment, getting drivers’ training, and overcoming DMV hurdles. I’ve been there. Maybe you have too.
If so, can you also relate to the confidence-building freedom of driving your car by yourself … singing along with your favorite tunes … only to have the euphoria spoiled by a gas gauge?
As the tank approaches empty, it typically means that there is another ordeal to contend with – pumping your own gas.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, gas stations are required to provide assistance to individuals who qualify for the service. However, this only applies at gas stations when two or more employees are working. Even then, it can be difficult to get someone’s attention. Methods for doing this include flashing headlights, turning hazard lights on, displaying the blue placard, and honking the horn. Now, there is a discreet option!
An innovative app was developed in the United Kingdom called fuelService. According to their website, fuelService offers ‘Simple, free refueling for drivers with disabilities’. The app identifies gas stations that offer complimentary refueling assistance to drivers with disabilities. It also serves as the means of communication between the driver and the participating gas station in order to facilitate the service.
Sounds great for the UK, but how about the U.S., you ask? Joshua Basile, (husband, father, lawyer, and self-described activist) asked the same question. Then, he took action.
Joshua brought fuelService to the US. Describing his motivation, Josh said, “Once I saw fuelService helping people in the UK, I knew I had to work to bring it to the U.S.
“As someone with a disability who has struggled to reach a gas pump – I’m so happy that fuelService will be able to help people in our community gain independence in filling up their cars.”
“It is more than just a convenience, there is a safety component to this initiative. It can be dangerous wheeling across a service station in between cars. Additionally, ramps can be damaged by other drivers accidentally running over them.”
The fuelService app identifies gas stations that offer complimentary refueling assistance to drivers with a disability. It also serves as the means of communication between the driver and the participating gas station in order to Ask Them to Help and Tell Them You Arrived so that the assistance can be provided.
The more Josh told me about it, the more excited I was to give fuelService a try.
The process was simple. I downloaded the app (available from the Apple Appstore or Google Play) and I entered my address.
At the time, I saw that the closest participating station was about 50 miles away. I resigned myself to the familiar story – another great idea that isn’t readily available.
But do I give up hope? Never!
Three weeks later, I tried again. That time, I was met with a long list of available stations. The closest was only 3 miles away!
Josh affirmed the growth. “I am pleased to share that currently, there are over 5,000 U.S. stations in fuelService. The big chains like Shell, CITGO, and Gulf signed up first. Now, hundreds of stations are getting added every week!”
The participating gas station is not one that I typically use. The gas price is a bit higher however, the prospect of receiving complimentary refueling assistance while I remain in my car was (and continues to be) well worth it.
Before leaving home, I used the app to make contact with the gas station. I received a message that assistance wasn’t available at the time, but to try back later.
According to Josh: “When a participating station gets the message asking for help, they reply if they can help or not. Either way, there is communication – so you can know before you go.
If an attendant is available, a driver receives a message indicating that they have 30 minutes to get to the gas station to receive refueling assistance.”
When I tried the app a second time, I received the message that help was available so I ventured out. When I arrived at the gas station, the app acknowledged my arrival and assistance was provided. The take away message:
I am grateful for innovations such as fuelService that seek to improve quality of life for individuals living and driving with a disability.
How to Help
I asked Josh, “How can we help fuelService succeed and serve more people in the U.S.?”
His response was, “Help raise awareness! The more people that download and use the app, the more we can show fuel companies that it is working and is needed.
Drivers with disabilities can ask their local gas stations to to subscribe to fuelService or connect with us using the ‘Send Feedback’ button on the app.”
“If we knock on the right doors, we can make fuelService into something that grows. I think we are proving that this is a valuable service, that people with disabilities also need to go to work, go out, bring our kids to a game.
I hope to never hear from another friend running out of gas because they could not find a station to help.”
Going the Extra Mile
As disability led organization working as a non-profit, fuelService not only helps address a present need, they also think long term.
fuelService founder, Niall El-Assaad, said “We want to improve quality of life and put money toward helping to end paralysis due to spinal cord injury.”
According to the fuelService website, they ‘donate all profits to spinal research charities, invest in SCI research projects, and support organizations who are bringing a cure closer to reality.’
Learn more and get the App at www.fuelservice.org.
*Cure Medical and Convatec are not affiliated with fuelService or with any gas station.
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