New gas station stickers will assist those in Georgia with disabilities — starting in Augusta
by Abraham Kenmore
Thursday morning at the Circle K gas station at Lumpkin and Deans Bridge Road, Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black handed Rep. Henry "Wayne" Howard a new gas station inspection sticker for the legislator to put on a pump. At the bottom of the sticker – and soon at the bottom of every pump sticker throughout the state – is a blank spot for that gas station's phone number that people with disabilities can call to receive assistance.
"This is a great day the Lord has given us to do some work that's been needed well before now," Howard said.
Almost all gas stations throughout Georgia are self service, which can cause issues for people who may have mobility issues. If people call the number, they can receive help from the clerk at the station. Howard said that he realized the need for this initiative after becoming disabled himself.
"I realized at that time this is a need, not a want," he said. Now, "if I drive up and I need assistance, I can call that number."
House Bill 437 – to add the stickers. After it passed the House, Black said that they could change the stickers already on the pumps without it going through the Senate and the Governor.Howard initially introduced a bill –
"We were able to do that all without a piece of legislation," Black said. "We had the design within an hour, we had the order for the stickers within a day."
Over the next 12-18 months as the Department of Agriculture inspectsthe roughly 170,000 gas pumps in Georgia, inspectors will apply the new stickers, Black said. Neither Black or Howard said how many gas stations already provide assistance for people with disabilities, but the stickers will be consistent at every pump.
"This is the only recognized sticker from the State of Georgia, so it comes with the regulatory integrity, rather than being another sticker on the pump," Black said. "They're in the hands of all of our inspectors right now."
Howard also thanked the convenience store industry for supporting the initiative.
"The feedback I got from the convenience stores at their conference two years ago was 100 percent thumbs up," Howard said. "We presented it to them at that time and they were all aboard."
Howard and Black were joined by other legislators, including Gloria J. Frazier and Augusta Commissioner Francine Scott, as well as Paul Stewart, advocacy director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and director of the Southeastern chapter, and Charlie Miller, legislative advocacy director for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Access to gas is not the only transportation challenge people with disabilities face. Miller said his organization is working to make sure accessible busses are widely available throughout the state, for example – but he thinks it is an important policy change never the less.
"We should be able to live, work and play in our own communities, and everyone knows you can't live, you can't work and you can't play if you can't get gas," Miller said. "I believe that there's a really good opportunity here to show that people with disabilities, veterans, and the community all can benefit from this issue."