Problem: Disabled drivers were never sure whether self-service gas stations could provide them with fueling assistance.
Solution: A county ordinance requiring large gas stations to have at least two accessible fuel pumps and a direct means of hailing an attendant.
J.R. Harding is a quadriplegic, but he can still drive his Ford E250 van, with the help of assistive technologies. But what he can’t do is gas-up his tank by himself.
That’s less of a problem since Leon County, Fla. enacted a Refueling Assistance for Disabled Persons ordinance, which took effect in 2014. It exceeds what is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (assistance upon request, posted instructions on getting fueling help from station employees).
The ordinance requires all gas stations with 10 or more fueling positions — in the county and city of Tallahassee, the county seat — to make two of them accessible with a call button or a local phone number. That constitutes about 40 stations, according to Emma Smith, the county’s director of permit and code services, whose office enforces the ordinance. There was some opposition from the gas station industry, Harding said, but not enough to stop the ordinance.
“With the button system, it also came with hours of operation posted, so you could know before hand when there’s two or more people on duty,” Harding said. Decals or stickers with that information have made their way from the pumps to street signs. “So you can make that decision before you even pull into the store.”
Nationwide, there are 15 million drivers with disabilities who are unable to easily access gas at 159,000 stations, according to the Disability Gas Coalition. There were about 193 retail gas stations in Leon County and the capital city when the ordinance was passed. It was implemented at no cost to the county, according to county officials.
Harding credited the county commissioners’ “relationship looking after grassroots citizens.” He was asked by the County Board to serve on a committee and “opine on the subject” to work out details of the ordinance.
It applies to existing, remodeled and new gas stations Noncompliance penalties, determined by the county’s Code Enforcement Board, can be up to $250 per day, County Attorney Herb Thiele said.
Before the ordinance took effect, two other Florida counties — Hillsborough and Pasco — had similar policies. After Leon County followed suit, the Florida Legislature, in 2014, considered a bill to preempt localities from enacting such ordinances and invalidating existing ones. But the county was successful in getting the lawmakers to grandfather existing ordinances, county officials said.
Before the ordinance, the county received more than 100 complaints about accessibility issues at gas stations. Afterwards, “We’ve gotten pretty good feedback,” Smith said. “A couple of the major advocates have been very thankful and have not even had to call in and make a complaint.”
Harding said that accessible gas stations are particularly important in a county that attracts retirees and seniors, and that also has a VA Hospital.
Visitors to the county have also taken note of the amenity, Harding said. Tallahassee is Seminole country, college football-wise, and he has accessible seating at Doak Campbell Stadium, where the “Noles” play.
“In my accessible seating location,” he said, “I get a lot of parents who show up, and some of those parents are disabled. And they have seen our gas stations, and they are like, ‘That is too cool. How did that happen? Tell me more.’
“There’s a couple of couples who said it leapt out at them that they didn’t not have this accessible feature in their community.”
See original article at: http://www.naco.org/articles/disabled-drivers-have-more-gas-station-choices