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Law: Refueling Act

Describes the rights of people with disabilities to receive assistance refueling their vehicles at gas stations.

Access to Refueling Services for Persons with a Disability Produced by Californians for Disability Rights 1722 J Street, Suite 2 Sacramento, CA 9583.4 (916) 447-2237 Made possible by a grant from the California Department of Rehabilitation and SILC Questions and Answers Regarding Refueling Services for Persons with Disabilities


In 1997, Californians for Disability Rights (CDR) sponsored Assembly Bill 1277 (Thomson) in order to update and clarify state law regarding refueling assistance for persons with disabilities at gasoline service stations. AB 1277 was passed by the Legislature, signed by Governor Wilson and enacted as Chapter 836, Statutes of 1997, effective January 1, 1998. The purpose of this brochure is to describe the provisions of the new law, to explain how it relates to other state and federal laws affecting access to refueling services for persons with disabilities, and to help persons with disabilities and service station operators to locate resources for additional information. This brochure does not provide legal advice or represent the official views of any government agency. However, as the sponsor of AB 1277, CDR is in a unique position to speak to the intent of the new law.

Questions and Answers

General Requirements:

What significant changes did AB 1277 make in the law related to access to refueling services for persons with disabilities?
AB 1277 repealed former Business and Professions Code Section 13412 and added a new Section 13660 to the Business and Professions Code. Although the basic concept of the statute remains the same, AB 1277 made several important changes designed to clarify the law and make it consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable laws. These changes include:

How does this compare to the requirements of the ADA?
Title III of the ADA requires that all businesses which offer services to the public are required to make accommodations for persons with disabilities at no additional cost unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the business or impose an undue financial or administrative hardship. Generally, this would require that a service station provide refueling assistance to a person with a disability who is unable to pump his or her own gasoline, even if it does not normally provide such assistance to other customers. However, the ADA probably would not require such assistance to be provided if there is only one employee on duty. Moreover, if there are two employees on duty, but one is assigned exclusively to food service, the station could argue that ADA would not require provision of refueling assistance because health and safety considerations preclude either employee from performing this service. Thus, AS 1277 essentially incorporates the ADA standard into state law with respect to the question of when refueling assistance must be provided. On the other hand, the ADA does not address signage requirements and A8 1277, unlike the ADA, requires the Board of Equalization to notify service stations about their obligations under the law and the Department of Motor Vehicles to notify persons with disabilities about their rights. AS 1277 also allows persons with disabilities to file complaints with various local officials while the ADA is enforced by federal agencies.

Are there other laws that also govern the provision of refueling assistance to persons with disabilities?
Yes. The Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil Code Section 51 et seq.) prohibits businesses from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Section 54 of the Civil Code specifically provides that a violation of the ADA is also a violation of the Unruh Act. Thus, the Unruh Act would also require a service station to provide accommodations to persons with disabilities who need assistance in pumping gasoline.

Signage Requirements:

What are the basic signage requirements of the law?
AB 1277 requires two different types of signs. First, those stations, which are required to provide refueling assistance, must post a sign to notify customers that such assistance is available. These signs must contain wording as specified in Business and Professions Code Section 13660 and, if refueling assistance is not always available, the sign must indicate the hours during which refueling assistance is provided. Second, those stations which are never required to provide refueling assistance (because they always fall within one of the exemptions) must post a sign notifying customers that refueling assistance for persons with disabilities is not available.

In AS 1277, the required wording for signage did not mention disabled veteran's plates. Has this problem been corrected?
Yes. There were numerous amendments to AB 1277 while it moved through the legislative process. One of the amendments changed wording related to disabled veteran's license plates and it appears that this somehow inadvertently garbled the provision spelling out the wording of the signs. As part of its 1998 legislative program, CDR succeeded in having language inserted into Senate Bill 2238 (Polanco) to correct this problem. SS 2238 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Wilson as Chapter 879 Statutes of 1998. (For relevant provisions of SS 2238, see Attachment 1.) Therefore, all signs purchased after January 1, 1999 (the effective date of SB 2238) should contain references to disabled veteran's plates.

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