Lexi in her new wheelchair on July 2nd (Source: Facebook)Lexi in her new wheelchair on July 2nd (Source: Facebook)
SAVANNAH, GA (WBTV) –
A Charlotte family says their disabled daughter was denied access to a maritime museum because her wheelchair would “get the carpets dirty.”
Dr. Stephen Haas says his family, including 11-year-old Lexi, was in Savannah over the weekend when they were told they wouldn’t be able to bring Lexi’s wheelchair into the Ships of the Sea Museum on Sunday.
Lexi suffers from Kernicterus, a bilirubin-induced brain dysfunction, which has left her physically non-functional. The bilirubin accumulates in the gray matter of the central nervous system, potentially causing irreversible neurological damage.
Haas says his wife is from Savannah and the family had done research online and knew that due to limitations, it might be difficult for Lexi to be able to visit the museum, which is housed in a historic home.
But he says the reason they were kept out “didn’t make any sense to me.”
Haas says a woman at the front desk of the museum said the family couldn’t bring in their wheelchair because it would get the carpets dirty. They then offered to let Lexi use a wheelchair that the museum owns.
Haas says Lexi, who can’t sit up on her own, was not able to use the museum’s wheelchair because it didn’t have straps that Lexi needs. The museum then offered to “have Lexi sit outside and watch a video on a tiny TV while the rest of us walked through the exhibits,” the family posted on Facebook on Sunday.
Museum curator Wendy Melton admits that the family was told this, but says it is not the museum’s policy. Melton says she spoke with the employee who misunderstood what the museum’s wheelchair policies are.
She says the museum offers the wheelchair to people who need it, but no one is required to use it.
The museum does have accommodations posted on its website to assist people with special needs.
“With prior notice, the Museum will make a docent available to a guest with a disability to provide an introduction to the collection, house and garden; set up a video presentation on the collection in the pavilion or classroom; introduce display items in the classroom, and make Museum publications or additional videos available to the guest,” the site states.
“At present, due to a conflict between city regulations and those of the Department of the Interior regulating historic sites, we do not have an elevator or lift,” the policy continues.
Haas says Lexi was angry about the incident, saying she just loves to learn.
He told WBTV that he was still waiting to hear back from the museum’s administration about the incident.
“We’ll just wait and see what they say,” he told WBTV.
Melton says the museum’s director is out of town for an extended period, but says she’s in the process of writing a letter of apology to the family.
“In Savannah, we have a reputation of being very accommodating to our guests,” she told WBTV. “This was an anomaly.”
She has spoken with the employee and made the actual policies very clear for the future.
Haas says they aren’t looking to file an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint, they just want to make it clear that this type of thing is not acceptable.
“You shouldn’t restrict someone because of her disability,” Haas said