City Desk

Disabled Man Settles Discrimination Suit Against Smithsonian

Lawyers representing a disabled man who filed a federal discrimination suit against the Smithsonian Institution last year after the National Air and Space Museum allegedly refused to allow him on its flight simulators because he was in a wheelchair say their client has settled with the Smithsonian—in an agreement, they say, that will make the museum more friendly to disabled visitors.

Back in 2012, Max Gold, a New York man in his 20s who has a rare vascular anomaly birth defect and had one of his legs amputated when he was a child, visited the flight simulator exhibit with his brother. But when he was told he couldn't go on it because it required two legs to  be safely harnessed in, he and his brother purchased tickets for the other flight simulator, which they were told at the ticket counter would be safe, according to the original suit.

But when Gold's brother lifted him out of the wheel chair, a supervisor yelled that he couldn't go on it, even after the brothers explained the nature of Gold's disability. The suit states 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," according to the original suit. Gold sued for injunctive relief and unspecified damages. The suit also named Pulseworks LLC, an independent contractor for the Smithsonian that operated the flight simulator exhibit.

Gold's lawyers say that because of the settlement, Gold and people with similar disabilities will now be able to ride the simulators. Pulsework employees will be trained on how to interact and accommodate individuals with disabilities.

"The Smithsonian will be meeting regularly with Pulseworks to discuss Pulseworks’s accessibility practices, thereby providing additional oversight of Pulseworks in this area," one of the attorney's, Shawn Heller, writes to City Desk.  "Pulseworks has adopted comprehensive disability polices dealing with everything from how to interact with individuals with disabilities to how to accommodate them.  In particular, individuals like Max, who need the assistance of their caregivers in order to get in the simulators, will be permitted to ride the simulators."

Heller says he cannot comment on any of the financial aspects of the settlement. Gold plans to revisit the flight simulators in August.

A spokesperson for the Smithsonian did not immediately return a call for comment.

Photo by man pikin via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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