Bustos Introduces “Refueling Assistance Act” To Ensure Individuals With Disabilities Can Fill Up At The Gas Pump With Ease

Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) announced the introduction of the Refueling Assistance Act that would help ensure individuals with disabilities can fill up their cars with gas and travel with the same ease and sense of security that able-bodied drivers enjoy.  Bustos introduced this legislation after being approached by local disability advocates Mitch Swanson, from Lynn Center, Illinois, and Gary McDermott, from Clinton, Iowa, both of whom have been fighting for years on the state level to make it easier for individuals with disabilities to fill up at their local gas station.  

Representatives Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) are original co-sponsors of the Refueling Assistance Act

“Refueling your car to go to work or run errands should be safe and convenient for all drivers,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “But for far too many individuals with disabilities, a simple trip to the local gas station can be a lengthy and dangerous ordeal.  That’s why after hearing Mitch’s and Gary’s stories about the obstacles they face when fueling up at the gas pump, I’m introducing this commonsense bill to help ensure every driver – disabled or non-disabled – has the ability to fill up their car with ease.”

“All persons with disabilities, including thousands of returning Veterans, understand the difficulty of filling up their tanks at gas stations that are supposedly accessible,” Congresswoman Duckworth said. “We must do better. The ability to drive independently is key to the American lifestyle. Ensuring that disabled Americans can consistently and safely refuel their vehicles is critical to their ability to live independent and fulfilling lives. This legislation is a step in that direction.”

“Refueling a vehicle is an unavoidable necessity for most Americans, and we’re not doing enough to ensure equal access at the pump,” Congressman Braley said. “The Refueling Assistance Act is a commonsense solution to give Americans with disabilities the tools they need to be self-sufficient and safe when filling up at the pump.”

“Whether it is a quick trip to the grocery store or getting to work, having access to a car is important for people with disabilities being able to live an independent life. We have to make it as easy as possible for folks to fill up their cars no matter their ability. This commonsense bill will help thousands of people improve their everyday lives,” Congressman Loebsack said.

“The Refueling Assistance Act would make a big difference in the lives of drivers with disabilities, like myself,” said disability advocate Mitch Swanson. “I thank Congresswoman Bustos for her leadership on this issue important to many across our region and across the country. I have been working on the state level for years and am pleased that my Member of Congress listened to my concerns and has taken up this issue on the federal level with so much energy and passion.”

“As a U.S. Army Veteran who has used a wheelchair for the past 41 years I have found it very difficult to refuel my vehicle and have always had to depend on friends or family, restricting the distance I can travel and expect to be able to refuel my vehicle,” said disability advocate Gary McDermott. “This is a positive step towards improving the lives of thousands.”

According to guidance issued by the Department of Justice, people with disabilities are supposed to honk their horn to get assistance from a gas station attendant.  Unfortunately, this system often fails to meet the needs of drivers with disabilities.  As a result, drivers are frequently faced with a blatant disregard for this guidance, a general lack of awareness about the policy, or excessive wait times. 

In a survey conducted by Inclusion Solutions, drivers reported feeling anxious every time they needed to refuel fearing they’d run out of gas before they could actually fill up.  To cope, drivers have developed close relationships with local stations or relied on friends to go to the gas station with them, neither of which is a sustainable or convenient solution.  Short videos that illustrate the challenges individuals with disabilities face when at the gas station can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.  

To help fix the problem and give ease to disabled drivers, the Refueling Assistance Act would:

  • Direct the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to study the adequacy of motor vehicle refueling assistance, report his findings to Congress, and develop recommendations to improve the program;
  • Direct the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations to ensure individuals with disabilities have access to safe, timely, convenient, and consistent refueling assistance; and
  • Allow the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to determine the appropriateness of a civil penalty on a person, such as a gas station owner, who knowingly violates the regulations.

A link to the bill is available online HERE.