Disabled drivers in Michigan can go online to view a directory of gas stations that offer full services at the pump.
The Michigan chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Michigan Petroleum Association have launched www.thepumpguide.com, a free website that lists more than 800 gas stations across the state that offer full pump services to people with disabilities.
Users of the online pump guide can search for gas stations by inputting a county, city, zip code or the route of their trip. Once selected, drivers can see all available gas stations as well as their hours of service, special instructions and other available amenities such as a snack shop or ATM.
Mike Harris, executive director of the Michigan chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, said that he began looking for solutions for disabled drivers back in 2001 after a full-serve gas station he used regularly suddenly switched to self-serve without notice.
“When I’m a couple hours or more away and aren’t familiar with an area, that’s when finding refueling assistance becomes a problem,” Harris said.
After working with the petroleum industry and the state government, the Michigan chapter was able to secure a $25,000 appropriation to create the online guide, Harris said.
The chapter worked with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office to create a Pump Guide bookmark that is now included with every disability license plate and placard issued by the department. The Transportation Department’s annual mailing to gas station owners also includes a letter from the chapter that highlights the Pump Guide program and encourages stations to participate.
Because of the guide’s online presence, the chapter is able to keep the information current and make changes when necessary, Harris added.
While the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires that all self-serve gas stations provide gas pump service to people with disabilities, that requirement only has to be met if the station has more than one employee working. “Unfortunately, most gas stations only have one person working,” Harris said.
The Michigan chapter is now working to encourage gas stations to install fuel calls, or buttons that disabled individuals can press to notify employees of the need for refueling assistance. Roughly 60 stations in Michigan currently provide the fuel calls, but if not, disabled drivers often must honk their horn to receive the service, Harris said.
The goal is to promote the Pump Guide as a way to bring awareness to both businesses as well as other states about the challenges disabled drivers face at the gas pump. He encourages other Paralyzed Veterans chapters to contact the gas station lobbyists in their states and ask for a meeting.
“The goal really is to bring awareness that this is an issue,” Harris said. “I think if other chapters and other states decided to do this, it would at least get the dialogue going.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America’s advocacy efforts on behalf of people with disabilities
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com