App launches in Canada to help drivers with disabilities fill up

There's a new app that helps drivers with mobility issues fill up their gas tanks with less hassle.

Fuelservice works with Shell gas stations around the country

Edward Rice with the Canadian Coalition for Mobility Challenged Drivers hopes that a new app will make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to buy gas and be on their way. (Grant Linton/CBC)

When David Onley got his driver's license back in 1969, all gas stations were full service — a boon to disabled Canadians. 

In the 50 years since, though, they've disappeared, so when Onley needs to fill up, he's got to do it himself. 

"Refuelling my van at the local station is difficult at the best of times, and in the winter it can even be treacherous," he told CBC Toronto. 

Onley, who is a former lieutenant governor of Ontario, wears leg braces and has limited upper body strength after contracting polio in his youth. That makes actions like removing the nozzle from the pump a challenge. 

After years of difficulty, he's now the ambassador for an app called Fuelservice, which directs people with disabilities to nearby Shell stations where someone can help them.

"You send the signal on the phone to them saying, 'I'm on my way,'" Onley explained. "And when you get there … you go to the designated pump, and you let them know that you've arrived." 

App first launched in U.K.

Fuelservice originally launched in the United Kingdom and came to Canada for pilot testing in part thanks to Barry Munro, the chief development officer for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization. 

"I fell in love with the app right away and thought it was a great idea," he said. "Shell started with a pilot [in Canada] for a couple years. Now, it's national." 

The app was initially running in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, but is now functional coast to coast, helping direct drivers with disabilities to 1,300 gas stations. 

Rice, left, and Barry Munro pose together at the app's Canadian launch on Thursday. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Eddie Rice, co-chairman of the Canadian Coalition for Mobility Challenged Drivers, also helped bring about Fuelservice's Canadian debut. 

After watching full-service stations dwindle down to a "precious few," he was inspired on a trip to Florida where he saw buttons on gas pumps that could be used to summon help. 

After years of looking for the right app, he's confident Fuelservice will be a gamechanger for Canada's two million disabled drivers. 

He's hoping other fuel companies adopt the app as well. 

"I think once they see it's a reality, they'll jump on the wagon," he said.