App could bring more forecourt freedom

App could bring more forecourt freedom

A disabled man has invented a smartphone app which aims to make getting assistance at petrol stations less of a lottery for wheelchair users and people with restricted mobility, reports Helen Dolphin.

Thanks to many developments in driving adaptations there are now many severely disabled people able to drive. However, the question of how you put fuel in your vehicle is a problem that has not been satisfactorily resolved. One issue is that even if you have the dexterity to use a pump, it’s really difficult to get a wheelchair out in a petrol station, so you’re relying on someone else to come out and put the fuel in for you. Although an attendant may help you, if there’s only one person on duty in the kiosk they won’t come out. However, a solution may be on the horizon, thanks to the invention of a smartphone Fuelservice app by Niall El-Assaad.

After becoming paralysed in a bike accident Niall was happy to get his freedom back in the form of a car. However, his experience of using Service-call, which is a device designed to help disabled people get attention at petrol stations was not good. He told me:

“The first time I needed petrol I went to a petrol station with Service-call and pressed the button. As you can imagine nothing happened, no one came. So after a while I drove to another petrol station, which also had Service-call. I pressed the button and the same happened again so I got my Blue Badge out and held it up. After a few minutes the attendant came out he told me that Service-call never really works and it’s best to beep my horn and show my Blue Badge. They also said it was best to come at rush hour, as they could only help when there were two of them in the shop.”

Niall, like many disabled people, found the experience of getting petrol extremely difficult. He didn’t want to cause a fuss and draw attention to himself; he just wanted fuel for his car. He knew there had to be something better than Service-call and so he got to work and within a month had developed his first prototype.

FuelService enables a disabled driver to contact the petrol station before you have even arrived to check that there is an attendant there to help you in the next 30 minutes. If it is a single operator kiosk it may be that they cannot help you at all, but at least by contacting them beforehand you are not left on the forecourt. If they can’t help you are sent a message back saying they can’t but if they can then the response will be positive. You can they go to the petrol station in full knowledge that you will be able to get the assistance you require. Once at the petrol station you click another button on the app and it tells the petrol station you have arrived and the details of your car so they recognise you. The petrol station staff can also let you know how many minutes they will be, so you aren’t sat there for ages wondering when you’re going to get served.

Once you’re finished, the App lets you review the service you received so the petrol station have the opportunity to improve and you can let other people know if its somewhere you would recommend.

Niall has successfully persuaded Shell garages and Sainsbury’s petrol stations in the North West to trial his app. However, he needs as many disabled drivers as possible to sign up to use it if he’s to persuade them to take it national and for other petrol retailers to take part. To help get this product off the ground please register for the Fuelservice pilot or you can download the Fuelservice app.

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