Save the “Why are you Honking” Stares for Me

I almost ran out of gas this morning.  In hindsight – completely foolish of me for too many reasons to count, but we’ll start with the fact that I was traveling in heavy traffic.

Do I have a good reason for letting the needle slip so low?  Well… not one of which I’m proud.  My reason is laziness.  It’s only eight degrees outside, and the honest truth is that the last thing I wanted to do this morning was pull over, get out of the car in this wretched weather, and refuel.

But who am I to complain?  In the grand scheme of things, it only takes me a handful of minutes to refuel my car, and I have the luxury of quickly hopping back into the front seat to shield myself from the freezing temps while the pump finishes its work.

Compare my experience to those of drivers with disabilities.  The reality is that for many with disabilities, the time it takes to refuel a vehicle is significant.  For the person in a wheelchair, simply exiting the vehicle, navigating around the gas pumps, and reentering the vehicle is very difficult – so much so that re-entering the vehicle to stay warm while the pump is working is untenable.

And have I mentioned the mess?  For someone in a wheelchair, refueling in this weather is grimy.  As the consumer maneuvers his or her wheelchair around the pumps to refuel, the wheels are traveling through all of that oily slush – slush that eventually makes its way back into the car and even the house upon return.

While the law requires every gas station to pump gas for drivers with disabilities when there is more than one employee on duty, the reality is that many stations’ attempts to comply aren’t practical.

For example, some pumps have stickers stating, “Honk for Assistance.”  Many drivers with disabilities report that station employees either leave them waiting or invoke the “Why are you honking?” stare. In the words of Backbones founder Reveca Torres, “There is a reaction that comes along with honking a horn – it’s an alert, a demand – it is definitely not positive. If I were the attendant on duty I would be annoyed, and good customer service would not be what I would deliver.”

Some stations opt to place a sticker on the pump that says, “For assistance, call this number: xxx-xxx-xxxx.”   The reality is that these too are insufficient.  Inclusion Solutions surveys gas station sites, and one of their most common observations is that these stickers are faded – making it impossible to see the number.  Furthermore, this option requires that the driver have a cell phone that is readily accessible. States Torres, “What if I forgot it? What if I dropped it on the floor and can’t reach it? What if the battery is dead? What if there’s no reception? What if I don’t own a cell phone? I should not be required to bring my own device to receive service from an establishment. You don’t bring your own knife and fork to the restaurant!”

And then… there are stations like Delta Sonic.  Delta Sonic is known for its outstanding customer service and for supporting local communities. In 2012, they were looking for a solution to guarantee their brand pumps were accessible and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and after considering many options, they selected Inclusion Solutions’ FuelCall™.

FuelCall is a turnkey, simple, and inexpensive solution that assures all gas stations comply with ADA requirements, but perhaps even more important – it truly welcomes drivers with disabilities and makes refueling easy (and warm, and clean).  FuelCall provides a push button notification device easily reached from inside the car and when pushed, signals the attendant inside the station. Signage lets drivers know the hours that extra assistance is available, and users can access a map of FuelCall station locations via the web.

And it turns out, where Delta Sonic leads… others will follow.  The U.S. military has installed FuelCall in more than 375 military bases worldwide, and the Canadian Coalition for Mobility Challenged Drivers is asking stations in Canada to create fully accessible stations.

To learn more about Delta Sonic’s customer experience, you can read the case study here.

And let’s all agree to save the “what are you honking for” stares for me, should I ever run out of gas!

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