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DALLAS — The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), with the support of U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), is adding a new system to gas stations on military installations across the globe that will make it easier for drivers with disabilities to receive full-service fueling by pushing a single button.
The Department of Defense authorized $1.12 million for installing FuelCall assistance systems at military service stations in 2014 following a request from AAFES and Duckworth. As a result, 370 facilities on Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps installations worldwide will receive FuelCall, which features an oversized, driver-side call button that lets drivers contact associates inside the store.
Drivers with disabilities will no longer have to honk their horn or flash their headlights to get the attention of a station attendant.
"All persons with disabilities, including thousands of returning veterans, active service members, as well as military families with physical disabilities, understand the difficulty of filling up their tanks at gas stations that are supposedly accessible," stated Duckworth, who is an Iraq War veteran who lost the use of her legs and partial use of her right arm after her helicopter was hit by an RPG in 2004.
"We must do better. The ability to drive independently is key to the American lifestyle," Duckworth continued. "Ensuring that disabled Americans can consistently and safely refuel their vehicles is critical to their ability to live independent and fulfilling lives. I applaud AAFES and the Department of Defense for their leadership on this issue, and I hope it serves as an example for gas station owners throughout our country."
Sixteen AAFES stations have already installed FuelCall, including locations at Scott Air Force Base, Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade. Another 38 AAFES locations are scheduled to begin offering FuelCall this month. A total of 215 AAFES locations in the United States and overseas are expected to have the system in place by May.
Drivers with a disability license plate or placard may have their gas pumped for them when an AAFES location that is equipped with FuelCall has more than one associate on duty. Signs will clearly identify what pump islands have the system and list the hours the service is available.
"Making gas stations accessible to drivers with disabilities is a priority," said AAFES' Real Estate Vice President Michael Smietana. "This system allows wounded warriors and others with disabilities to easily get assistance at the pump without frustration."