Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Fuel for Thought - help for disabled drivers at petrol stations

Niall El-Assaad's picture
By: Niall El-Assaad

The freedom that having a car brings to disabled people is massive. Check out Rica’s useful mobility information here

After becoming disabled, I found that being able to drive made me feel like everyone else, until I ran out of petrol…

I drove from station to station, pressing the old-world infrared remote control - which didn't work. Beeping my horn and waving my blue badge to get attention was embarrassing. Even then I didn’t get any help. On to the next petrol station, praying that the fumes in the tank would get me there. Is this a familiar feeling for other disabled drivers?

At petrol stations, staff can only come out to help you if there is more than one person working there because, for security reasons, if there's only one person there they can't come out to tell you they can't help!

It made me think: is there a simple way of arranging help at a petrol station?

I came up with a not-for-profit solution: fuelService. This is how it works:

  • Use your mobile phone to find and book with a petrol station before you set off
  • The petrol station confirms they will help so you can go there in confidence and you don’t waste your time
  • When you arrive, fuelService tells them which pump you’re at, and they tell you how long they will be
  • For smartphone users, it’s available as a free app
  • For other mobile users you call an automated number

Please give it a try! Download fuelService from your app store or go to fuelservice.org here.

But payment is still a pain.

Like many disabled drivers, I still keep enough cash whenever I’m in my car, in case I need to pay for fuel. I've heard of people handing over their card and their PIN to forecourt attendants. Please don't. There are safe alternatives:

Chip and signature cards:
These are bank cards where you hand over your bank card, it goes in the machine and you sign the receipt. The downside is that you have to sign for everything, you can't use a PIN, and it can confuse staff that haven’t seen one before.

Contactless, for purchases of less than £30:
Newer cards are now contactless. You give your card to the attendant and swipe it on the card machine; no need for a PIN. The downside is the £30 limit, which might not be enough to fill up your car.

Fill Up & Go:
My favourite solution is Shell’s Fill Up & Go where you can pay for your fuel with a smartphone app. After using fuelService you click a button to pay with the Shell app.

Let’s hope all the other fuel companies bring out payment apps soon.

Now all I need is a solution to finding an empty disabled parking space! Any ideas?

Niall


See also: Petrol station mystery shopping researchChoosing a car | Car search