Photo courtesy of Pat Hughes
Pumping gas seems like a mindless activity to many. But it's a nearly impossible task if you have a disability.
"My friend Mitch is a quadriplegic and he came up to me at a trade show and said, 'I can't get gas in my car,'" said Pat Hughes, creator of the FuelCall gas station system, . "We have about 15 million people driving who have disabilities and they can't get assistance at the pump. I wanted to make it easier for them."
The FuelCall system consists of an oversize call button located on the fuel island that can be pushed from the driver's car. This then alerts the staff that a driver with disabilities needs assistance at the pump. Hours that assistance is available are posted near the button.
"The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that if there is more than one person working at a gas station, one of them has to pump your gas if you need it," Hughes said. "Most drivers with disabilities that I know wind up just sticking with a local station that they know and love, or use their wife, friends or family members to pump the gas for them. But if they are alone or traveling, the options are very limited."
While demand has grown in the seven years FuelCall has been available, Hughes -- shown above with BP employee Alice Galimore at the FuelCall-equipped station at Dempster and McCormick in Skokie -- said there's still a long way to go.
"Out of the nearly 159,000 gas stations across the country, 400 of them are signed up for this," said Hughes.
FuelCall recently launched an app that allows people to use their smartphones to find stations that use the system.
"These are customers, not people asking for a handout," he said. "It makes me very happy to know that such a basic thing like pumping gas can be done now for this community."
For more information or to find a FuelCall system in your neighborhood, visit http://www.fuelcall.net.
(Added Nov. 10, 2011)