For many Californians, access to a car means freedom of movement and independence, and it’s a simple way to get to and from work, attend social gatherings, go to the doctor, or get groceries for their families.
But for those of us who have a disability and drive, it’s not always so simple; we have to plan everything.
Some days it feels like I spend more time planning my day than I do ‘living’ it. Even things that can seem mundane or routine, like filling up at a gas station, requires careful planning.
Gas stations rarely comply with requirements laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act, leaving us with a fueling system that impedes our mobility.
Imagine for a moment, you drive up to the pump, open your door, put the seatback down, lower the seat, reach over and grab your wheelchair, swing it outside, grab one wheel, attach, grab the second wheel, attach. Now swing over and transfer. Roll over to the pump: Can I reach the card-reader to pay? Or, if not, is there an accessible path of travel to pay inside? Can I reach the buttons to select my grade?
The simple truth is that gas stations just don’t work for people with disabilities, especially people who sit or stand under 4-foot-tall. They rarely comply with requirements laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act, leaving us with a fueling system that impedes our mobility and independence, meaning we don’t have equal access to fuel.
In fact, it’s a major reason why people with disabilities avoid driving altogether.
Take my commute, for example. I live in Los Angeles and drive roughly 100 miles to and from work each day. That means I need to fill up at the pump at least twice a week. As a driver who uses a wheelchair, getting gas is challenging. Even if I get help with filling my tank at a station, it can take more than 30 minutes to fill up the tank, making my commutes longer to get to and from work.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There is a solution for Californians right now – if the state Assembly can take action to support the disability community. As a member of the Californians for Smart Fueling coalition, I have been advocating for solutions to give those of us with disabilities equal access to fueling our cars.
If AB 2563 is passed, drivers with disabilities like me can have fuel delivered to our cars without having to deal with the stressors and uncertainties of gas stations.
Assembly Bill 2563 will make its way to the California Assembly’s subcommittees for transportation and environment on April 4. What the bill proposes is to allow for mobile fueling on demand, a real solution for disabled drivers, to responsibly expand throughout California.
Current laws regulating fuel dispensing were written at a time before mobile fueling existed, and as a result, a majority of California Air Districts have outdated rules that don’t allow for responsible mobile fueling. AB 2563 would rectify this.
If passed, drivers with disabilities like me can have fuel delivered to our cars without having to deal with the stressors and uncertainties of gas stations. Using an app on a phone to schedule mobile fuel delivery ahead of time will cut down on planning, simplify commutes for drivers and will make our lives better.
Simply put, access to mobile fueling is the best alternative to gas stations for drivers with disabilities now, as well as helping the senior and veterans’ communities maintain mobility and independence.
Filling up at the pump isn’t a great experience for anyone, but for those of us with disabilities and drive, it can end up being far worse and limit our independence and mobility.
We urge the State Assembly to pass the bill and help make our lives better. We have been waiting for nearly three years for a better way to fill up the tank and keep our independence and we need this solution now.
Editor’s Note: Lisa Hayes is a board member of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers.