—Jenniffer Weigel, Tribune Newspapers
Pat Hughes helps the disabled fuel up
Pumping gas seems like a mindless activity to many. But it's a nearly impossible task if you have a disability.
"My friend Mitch is a quadriplegic and he came up to me at a trade show and said, 'I can't get gas in my car,'" said Pat Hughes, creator of the FuelCall gas station system, . "We have about 15 million people driving who have disabilities and they can't get assistance at the pump. I wanted to make it easier for them."
The FuelCall system consists of an oversize call button located on the fuel island that can be pushed from the driver's car. This then alerts the staff that a driver with disabilities needs assistance at the pump. Hours that assistance is available are posted near the button.
"The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that if there is more than one person working at a gas station, one of them has to pump your gas if you need it," Hughes said. "Most drivers with disabilities that I know wind up just sticking with a local station that they know and love, or use their wife, friends or family members to pump the gas for them. But if they are alone or traveling, the options are very limited."
While demand has grown in the seven years FuelCall has been available, Hughes said there's still a long way to go.
"Out of the nearly 159,000 gas stations across the country, 400 of them are signed up for this," said Hughes.
FuelCall recently launched an app that allows people to use their smartphones to find stations that use the system.
"These are customers, not people asking for a handout," he said. "It makes me very happy to know that such a basic thing like pumping gas can be done now for this community."
For more information or to find a FuelCall system in your neighborhood, visit http://www.fuelcall.net.
Imran Khan motivates students to aim high
Getting students from Harper High School motivated to go to class can be an uphill battle.
"It's really challenging because of the violence," said Imran Khan, an English teacher at the West Englewood high school. "More of my students know people in jail than they know people in college."
Khan decided to organize trips to take his students outside of their neighborhood to see if it would make a difference.
"Most of the kids had never been downtown," Khan said. "They didn't know what Millennium Park looked like. One student literally didn't even know there was a lake. He'd never seen Lake Michigan. We're talking about a 17-year-old!"
After taking a group to the University of Chicago, Khan noticed the students were far more motivated to stay in school.