A survey conducted this year of 20 self-service gas stations in Rockland County found only one in full compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The stations in New City, Nanuet, Pearl River, Nyack, Orangeburg, Haverstraw, West Haverstraw, Pomona and Mount Ivy were checked for signage at the pumps notifying customers with disabilities they could request assistance with fueling. After finding only one had signage, the Rockland Independent Living Center approached the county about working together to bring gas stations into compliance.
On Thursday, the Rockland Independent Living Center (RILC) and the county announced a joint initiative to bring all gas stations in Rockland into compliance. There are three main components of compliance: provide fueling assistance for customers with disabilities if requested and there are two attendants on duty, display signage advising customers of this service and charge these customers the same price as self-service customers.
“It was clear to us this was systemic issue in the county,” said RICL Independent Living Director Sarah Mitchell-Weed.
RILC Executive Director George Hoehmann said the effort is community education focusing on disability issues with the involvement of the county executive’s office and the Office of Consumer Protection.
“It’s unique partnership if you will to our knowledge, the first of its kind in New York State where an independent living center and the county have partnered to seek full and voluntary compliance with Title 3 of the ADA for fueling stations,” explained Hoehmann.
Matthew Castelluccio, coordinator of adaptive sports at Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Center, said the assistance will help people with disabilities be more independent.
"It's the greatest sense of freedom," he said. "That freedom could be taken away from us if we're unable to obtain gas at a fueling station and forever need assistance for a family member to go with us."
Within the next two weeks, signage will be distributed to all gas stations in the county and inspectors from the Office of Consumer Protection will explain to station owners, managers and employees how to comply with ADA. Consumer Protection Director Terry Grosselfinger said there are 70 to 75 gas stations in Rockland. He said he expects voluntary compliance from the stations but there are penalties for non-compliance.
Sean Matthews, the chef of staff for the county executive, said the push for compliance will benefit 40,000 Rockland residents with disabilities. He said RILC and Consumer Protection created the signs for the gas stations. The signage, which should be placed on the self-service pumps, directs people with disabilities to honk twice or call the attendant to request assistance. It also describes how customers can file a complaint if they feel their request for assistance was not handled properly.
Mitchell-Weed said it should not impact gas stations, noting, “It’s virtually cost less.”
Ulster County Legislator Craig Lopez said other regions would follow Rockland’s lead.
“It’s going to serve as a model for neighboring counties as well,” said Lopez.