May 12, 2014
In the past few years we’ve seen a growing focus on improving accessibility to all manner of public places from airplanes to restaurants to doctors’ offices. There are still, however, many places that we don’t even think about which need to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Two organizations in New York, the United Spinal Association and the Disability Gas Coalition, have now released a video featuring Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who targets gas stations with disability-access issues.
Rep. Duckworth is a double-amputee and war veteran who is confined to a wheelchair, and the video explains how much of a struggle it is to simply get gas at a service station. This problem is not an isolated one, either; 15-million drivers with disabilities across the country have difficulty getting gas at almost 160,000 stations.
Says Rep. Duckworth of the issue, “All persons with disabilities, including thousands of returning veterans, understand the difficulty of filling up their tanks at gas stations that are supposedly accessible.” She goes on to discuss how people with disabilities often have to humiliate themselves when asking for assistance at these stations, resorting to measures like honking horns. The alternative of having the disabled driver exit the vehicle, she says, is impossible or dangerous.
“We must do better,” she says. “The ability to drive independently is key to the American lifestyle. Ensuring that disabled Americans can consistently and safely refuel their vehicles is critical to their ability to live independent and fulfilling lives.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires gas stations to provide refueling assistance when there is more than one employee on duty. Unfortunately, all too many stations ignore this requirement, or at the very least, make it unclear to those who need it. According to disability rights organizations, the issue is that, while stations are well-informed about EPA requirements, brand requirements and the like, they are woefully misinformed about ADA requirements.
The coalition of disability rights’ advocacy organizations is hoping to put some of the responsibility for change into the hands of those who need assistance. As the coalition points out, the disability community must take charge to spread the word on this lack of gas station access. It’s important to get state and national organizations to join the Disability Gas Coalition, they say.
James Weisman, SVP and General Counsel of the United Spinal Association, says, “United Spinal urges all people with disabilities to contact their elected officials and ask for legislation that requires assistance be provided at gas stations.” Here’s Rep. Duckworth’s video, followed by a video that shows one gas station’s helpful solution. What’s the best way to mobilize the community of people with disabilities to get behind a cause for important change?