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A disabled man filed a federal discrimination suit against the Smithsonian Institution this morning after the National Air and Space Museum allegedly refused to allow him to go on its flight simulators because he was in a wheelchair.
Pulseworks LLC, an independent contractor for the Smithsonian that operated the flight simulator exhibit, was also named in the suit.
The incident occurred in Aug. 2012 when Max Gold and his brother, both in their twenties, traveled from New York to D.C. to visit some of the District’s museums. Gold, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aviation security systems, has a rare vascular anomaly birth defect and had one of his legs amputated when he was a child.
According to the suit, when Gold went to the flight simulator exhibit he was told he could not go on one of them because it required two legs to be safely harnessed in. So he and his brother purchased tickets for the other flight simulator, which, they were told at the ticket counter, would be safe.
But when Gold’s brother lifted him out of his wheel chair, a supervisor came running toward them, attracting onlookers, and yelling to say that Gold could not go in the simulator, the lawsuit alleges. The brothers tried to explain the nature of Gold’s disability, but another supervisor reportedly said that for insurance reasons, everyone needs to be able to enter the simulator on their own, and “if he can’t get into the simulator himself, then he can’t go.”
According to the suit, the brothers were “humiliated, embarrassed, and disgusted with the experience” and during the entire encounter with one of the supervisors “she refused to address Max – speaking only to his non-disabled brother – and displayed a complete lack of understanding or sympathy for Max or Jake, or disability laws in general.”
Gold is suing for injunctive relief and unspecified damages.
The communications director for the Air and Space Museum said it had not been served with a complaint and had no further comment on the case.
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