Oil Giant to Ensure Stations Are Accessible
Chevron said yesterday that it will inspect 1,600 company-owned service stations and make any changes necessary to provide the disabled with full access to services.The action settles a nationwide class-action lawsuit that accuses the San Francisco oil giant of violations to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since 1996, Chevron has been in discussions with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group in Berkeley that previously sued United Artists Theaters on similar grounds. The settlement agreement reached by the two sides was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and is awaiting court approval.
Although the agreement will not take effect until 90 days after court approval, Chevron said it is already carrying out its provisions.
Under the agreement, Chevron agrees to make sure all rest rooms and convenience stores provide easy access. Where customers have difficulty reaching pumps at self-serve- only stations, the company will train employees to offer assistance whenever there are at least two employees on duty.
Chevron is preparing decals to be distributed nationwide that will disclose the hours during which pump assistance is available. They also will establish a toll-free number customers can call with complaints or questions.
Customers will be instructed to summon help using pump intercoms, available at stations built since 1991, or by giving three toots of their car horn.
“This agreement formalizes, externally, policies we’d been developing internally for several years,” said Chevron spokeswoman Dawn Soper. “We’ve been working to make stations more accessible to the disabled since before the ADA.”
Soper said Chevron believes most stations are already in compliance. Hundreds of stations have been built to ADA standards or have been retrofitted curb cutouts and redesigned rest rooms, among other features.
Nevertheless, the Berkeley group said in its lawsuit that it still found rest rooms and convenience stores that could not be reached by people in wheelchairs or that were too cramped to navigate.
“The purpose of a class-action lawsuit is to bring the whole issue of access to the forefront,” said Arlene Mayerson, attorney for the disabled rights group. “There’s a lot of specificity in the order about what must be done so we won’t be negotiating this station by station and state by state.”
She said she believes Chevron was encouraged to reach agreement by a nationwide settlement reached with Shell last June.
Although the decree binds Chevron-owned properties only, it is expected that the more than 6,000 independently owned and operated Chevron stations will conform to the agreement as well.
“There is a certain standard of service associated with the Chevron name and we will work with the independent dealer operators to get consistency,” said Chevron’s Soper.
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