Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
When I was a kid I loved the movie “Back to the Future” with Michael J Fox. I remember clearly the scene where it shows his parents in the 50’s at a gas station – back then, “full serve” meant windows were cleaned, the car shined, tires pumped, and of course your gas tank refilled. It was like the pit-stop at a NASCAR race where you would have multiple people at your vehicle getting you on your way quickly. Fast forward to today where “full-serve” is uncommon, and finding a station where someone can fill your tank while you wait in the car might require you to venture out of your way.
So, how does this translate for people with disabilities? Well, firstly, there are many people that can and do drive a car regardless of a mobility impairment. Cars can be modified to accommodate the specific needs of many people with physical challenges. Hand controls, left-footed gas pedals, spinner knobs, automatic wipers, voice controls…to name a few. That is all fine while the vehicle is being operated, but what about when it is time to refuel? It is possible, but not always efficient or safe, for people with a physical impairment to get out of the vehicle, grab their mobility device, and wait outside the car in the elements to refuel. Not to mention the safety risks of these tight spaces, other vehicles, and fall / slipping hazards of wet and uneven ground.
Considering the move away from “full-serve”, I wanted to look in detail at the services offered by gas stations to help people to refuel when mobility is a challenge. I was surprised at what I found – some stations have well listed policies that are clear and supportive, while others have no policy or tell people to “call ahead” before coming to refuel.
Here is what I found about ways to refuel if getting out and around your car at a gas station is not the best choice for you…
I give the following companies a THUMBS UP:
Drivers with disabilities can use the Esso Fuel Finder to find stations that offer the fueling option that best meets your needs:
Split serve stations: Both full- and self-service options are available to customers
Full serve only stations: Full service is available to customers
Self-serve only stations: While some of our stations have designated Disability Fueling Assistant hours where more than one attendant is available, often there is only one attendant on duty at self-serve stations.
We recommend you call ahead to see if appropriate staffing arrangements can be made. Contact information is available on the Esso Fuel Finder.
Drivers with a disabled parking permit will receive full service at self-serve prices at stations with both full and self-serve pumps. The gas station attendant will fuel your vehicle at the self-service island so that you pay only the self-serve price for fuel. Customers should identify themselves to one of our gas station attendants. Please note this service is available only during full service hours.
At self-serve only stations, staff will make every effort to help customers displaying disabled parking permits with refueling. Please identify yourself to one of our gas station attendants. We also encourage you to contact your local station to discuss your individual needs as some stations have limited staff and payment access.
At participating split-service stations, a site which provides self-service and full-service at the islands, drivers with an accessible parking permit will receive full-service at self-serve prices. The full-service attendant will fuel your vehicle at the self-service island so that you pay only the self-serve price for fuel.
At participating self-serve stations, customers with an accessible parking permit can drive up to a two-way call station located at the fuel island and press the button to speak to the attendant inside the store to request assistance with fueling their vehicle.
The following get a THUMBS DOWN:
Pioneer’s site only speaks to assistive devices, communication, support persons and service animals, but does not address the challenge of people with physical impairments being able to refuel.
CANADIAN TIRE GAS
For non-full serve stations, people are required to schedule an appointment with the retailer for refueling. ONRoute locations offer full serve to all customers between the hours of 7am and 10pm, 7 days a week. For service outside of these hours, an appointment is required. Those using the full serve through the Disability Assistance Program will be charged self-serve prices.
COSTCO and ULTRAMAR:
No information is provided.
In summary, I was impressed by what I found and applaud Shell, Esso and Petro-Canada for being so progressive and supportive on this issue. For the rest, I presume that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) will require those that are behind in offering disability-friendly refueling options to develop policies and procedures and to post these to be easily found on their websites. In the meantime, I trust those drivers with mobility issues will use and benefit from what Shell, Esso and Petro-Canada have to offer people in their situation.