Cheap gas hunting is harder for people in accessible vans

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin


As a disabled driver, there are few chores I hate more than filling up my accessible van with gasoline.


Skyrocketing prices have not only made that chore even more painful, but have forced me to make changes in where I fill up.


Let me explain.


Pumping my own gasoline requires deploying a ramp that lets me roll in and out of the van.


As cautious as I try to be, I always worry that another driver won’t see the ramp - or me - and there will be an accident.


So, until recently I patronized gas stations that weren’t crowded and had room to maneuver.


That often meant I went to stations that were more expensive and farther away. Safety was the priority.


Rising gas prices have now forced me to change strategy.


My van serves me well, but it is a gas guzzler because of the added weight from the ramp and other equipment that lets me drive.


It averages only 17 miles per gallon.


I figure I am spending another $20 to $30 a week on gas.


Consequently, prices are now the priority. I look for places with lower prices. I even check GasBuddy online.


Of course, almost everyone else is doing the same thing, so there are crowds jockeying for positions at the pumps. It doesn’t feel nearly as safe for me.


I have explored other options to get gas, but I don’t see them as practical.


First, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires self-service stations to provide equal access to customers with disabilities.


That means stations must provide refueling assistance upon request for an individual with a disability.


Stations must provide that assistance without any charge beyond the self-service price.


Stations and convenience stores are not required to provide such service if they are operating on a remote-control basis with a single employee, but are encouraged to do so.


I have never asked a station for help because it seems at some point that I would need to turn over my credit or debit card to a stranger in order for that person to pump the gas. I am uncomfortable with that.


It would also require that I know the phone number to call for assistance.


Some gas stations have a blue wheelchair accessible button that you can press if you need assistance.


The only problem with this button is that is not in reach for many people from their vehicle.

They still need to get out of their vehicle to press the button. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.


A more extreme solution to the problem is to contract with a service to deliver gas to you at any location you choose.


There are several startups trying to make this work across the country.


One such fuel-on-demand startup makes some clever arguments for its service. The company says its service:


SAVES TIME: The average driver spends at least 7 minutes per trip to the gas station. That adds up to about 12 hours a year.


SAVES MONEY: The average driver would save at least $200 a year on trips to the gas station.


STAY HEALTHY: The average gas pump is considered one of the dirtiest everyday objects and has 15,000 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.


STAY SAFE: Gas stations are targeted areas for credit card scams.


Nice try, but I would be uncomfortable with pumping gas in my driveway.


The last and most extreme option would be moving to New Jersey. Pumping gas myself would be illegal. All New Jersey gas stations are required to be full-service.


I always thought that was a ridiculous law, but now that I am disabled, it seems just perfect.


(Contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)