The family of an 11-year-old girl say she was denied access to the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah because of her wheelchair.
On Sunday, the Haas family, visiting from Charlotte, NC, stopped at the museum. Lexi Haas, 11, has a cerebral palsy-like condition, which requires her to use a specialized wheelchair.
After carrying Lexi and her wheelchair up the flight of stairs at the museum entrance, her father went in to get a lay of the land. He said they were told Lexi's wheelchair couldn't come in because it would get the floors and rugs dirty.
"I said, what about our shoes? Do people have to take those off," Dr. Ken Haas told WTOC. "I was flabbergasted."
Haas told WTOC they me they were given two options. Lexi could switch to a wheelchair provided by the museum, usually used for people with mobility issues and elderly, or they could set up a video presentation for the young girl in the lower level, which is handicap accessible. Both options are stated in the museum policy and on their website. Haas said neither option was suitable and after another attempt to explain American Disabilities laws, the family left.
Haas said the incident left a bad taste in their mouth, and with Lexi.
"She told me she was angry. That's the word that struck her. She wasn't sad," Haas said. "If that is all it is a video, why have a museum? It's not the same and we were willing to haul her up there and carry her around if we needed to but it was nixed."
"A museum is a cool thing and everyone should be able to see them," he said.
The Ships of the Sea Museum curator says the policy was misunderstood by the guide at the entrance when they turned away the 11 year old.
"There was an error in our interpreters understanding of the policy," Curator Wendy Melton told WTOC.
Melton said the wheelchair should have been allowed. Due to historic designation of the building, Melton said there are no lifts or elevators for wheelchairs. However, if the family picked her up and brought her to the second floor, the guides should have allowed them in with the wheelchair, especially under these circumstances and Lexi's disability.
"We are going to reach out to the family and apologize to them," Melton said. She also says the guide has been spoken with regarding policy in the future.
"We really don't want this to happen to anybody else," Haas said.
The family said they are willing to listen and won't be filing any complaints or lawsuits. Lexi, however, is still angry about the incident.
"We asked if we got all this straightened out would you want to go back and she adamantly said no," Haas said.
The museum curator is writing a letter of apology and called the Haas family. They didn't let it spoil their Savannah vacation, instead got ice cream to cool down after the incident and distract Lexi from the snub.
They do hope the policy becomes a little more clear.
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