Self-serve gas stations required to aid disabled


POSTED: Thursday, July 16, 2009

Question: I've been told that in California, the law requires gas stations to put gas in someone's car if they have a handicap placard, unless they choose to do it themselves, even in the self-serve sections. Does that apply in Hawaii? I accidentally found one station to assist me, but I feel like a beggar and that they're going out of their way to do me a favor. Twice now, the manager has been wonderful and even put air in a tire for me. However, a couple of workers just stared at me and another walked right by before the manager came out.

Answer: It's not just California. The federal Americans With Disabilities Act requires self-serve gas stations to provide equal access to customers with disabilities.

So, yes, gas stations in Hawaii are required to:

» Help pump gas upon request.

» Let customers know, such as with signs, that disabled customers can get that help either by honking or otherwise signaling an employee.

» Not charge more than the self-serve price of gas for providing that help.

There are exceptions to the law, such as when providing help poses an “;undue burden,”; said Francine Wai, executive director of the state Disabilities and Communications Access Board.

An example would be if only one person is on duty at night and it wouldn't be safe to leave the cash register unattended to pump gas.

“;This is not a big issue here as it might be on the mainland, when people drive hundreds of miles and end up low on gas in the middle of the boonies at night at one-person stations,”; Wai said.

Also, Wai pointed out that a gas station is not required to have a person on duty at all times, so there may not always be someone available to help.

Her office has not received complaints about the lack of help at gas stations for “;many, many years.”; These days, she said, gas stations appear to be “;fairly responsive.”;

Some stations even have buttons to press for assistance, although Wai said it appears local stations rely more on personal interaction and the use of the international symbol of accessibility.

Kahala Shell Auto Care, which has both full-service and self-serve gas pumps, has a button to push at its self-serve pumps.

But if customers have a disabled parking placard, they also can just toot their horn and an employee will go to help, said Madeleine Snow, co-owner of the Waialae Avenue gas station. “;It's no problem.”;

The only time there might be a problem is if there's only one person on duty “;and there's a store full of people. Then you can't leave the store unattended to do that,”; Snow said. “;Most people wouldn't expect that.”;

On the other side of the coin, Snow observed that “;you'd be surprised at how many people don't want the help. There's a fine line between being helpful and being imposing.”;

If you have more questions regarding the ADA, call 800—514-0301 or check the ADA Web page, www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.



To Dr. Sharon Lawler and her staff. She is such a blessing to our community. When you see her in her office, she will always give you a hug. I think she realizes that so many people out there need that. She is a saint. God bless you, Dr. Lawler. — Reiko Stiver, Lower Manoa