By Franklin Elieh, Northern California Spinal Cord Network
Mobile fueling legislation
When it comes to lessening the hardships of Americans with disabilities, we’ve come a long way in America. But one area that has been virtually overlooked is accessibility to fuel for drivers with disabilities.
On Oct. 10, California Gov. Gavin Newsom chose from hundreds of bills the legislature asked him to support after the first of the two-year session.
Unfortunately, one bill Gov. Newsom did not get to ratify is mobile fueling legislation, an empowerment critical to drivers with disabilities
In California alone, nearly 800,000 people have a mobility disability, meaning one that affects gross or fine motor skills. Mobility impairments affect many people at different points in their lives, including older adults, those who have suffered strokes, those born with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
Fuel stations – most inaccessible public places
For drivers with disabilities everywhere, gas stations just don’t work. Despite ADA regulations, fuel stations remain among the most inaccessible public places. The raised concrete barrier surrounding gas pumps makes call buttons, nozzles, and payment impossible to physically reach. For wheelchair users who must drag nozzles across their bodies to fill up, gasoline spills are common.
Here’s how this affects me personally. I am a resident of San Jose, California, and a quadriplegic who drives. This year, over the 4th of July weekend, I went to four gas stations after realizing I was low on fuel:
- – During two of the visits, the gas station clerk would not come out to pump gas for me, citing the ADA exception that they were the only attendant on duty.
- – At the third station, the attendant completely ignored me.
- – Frustrated by this experience, I had to take a chance and found one 10 miles away, merely three miles short of running out of fuel.
The sad reality is that this happens to drivers with disabilities regularly across the country.
Last year, a group of organizations launched Californians for Smart Fueling to advocate for a mobile fueling bill AB-905 that would regulate and grow the service to be available to more Californians. Were the service to be available today, it would have already changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.
The bill is a first step toward building better infrastructure for people with disabilities. Mobile fueling services are promising to the disability community because they provide access to contactless, full-service refueling for the same price as local gas stations. Payment is easy as well since most services offer apps that are easy to download and use.
California legislature refused
Given California’s reputation for innovative thinking for people with disabilities that scales nationwide, the state has a real opportunity to begin the conversation. But for the second year in a row, the California legislature has refused to regulate mobile fuelers, which would, in turn, let them grow their services across California. The legislature says no to the proposed bill that would open access to mobile fueling across the state, citing bureaucratic non-issues with local air quality regulators that effectively amount to territorialism and politics. Not only do Californians lose, but Americans everywhere lose potential access to basic services like fueling their cars.
Mobile fueling is safe.
Mobile fuelers that meet all state and local requirements have been permitted to operate in 150 cities nationwide, yet the state of California continues to struggle despite its reputation in social justice and environmental protections.
Pass the mobile fueling bill.
California has always been the beacon of hope and the home of the disability rights movement of Ed Roberts. The needs of drivers with disabilities have been put on the back burner long enough.
As a representative of the coalition, and a member of the mobility disability community, I speak for all Americans when I implore the legislature to establish a precedent for a national conversation on fueling accessibility by passing the mobile fueling bill; the time for accessibility rights is now.
Franklin Elieh is the co-founder of NorCal SCI, an organization that offers support and resources to spinal cord injury survivors, as well as advocacy. He is also a quadriplegic living with spinal cord injury.
Get involved | https://www.californiansforsmartfueling.com/get-involved