Museums Saying No? Something Isn’t Right

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Recently the Haas family was on vacation, and brought their daughter Lexi, who has Kernicterus, a condition that affects motor control, causing her to use a powerchair. And while on vacation, they had one heck of a rude wake-up call while visiting the Ships of the Sea Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

The family had just purchased their tickets, were about to enter the museum, when an employee stopped them from entering. The reason – Lexi’s wheelchair was “too dirty” and would ruin the carpet in the museum. How completely appalling. Really. People tread in just as much crap on their feet. How is a chair more dirty? The family must have been in shock, not to mention embarrassed for being treated in such a second-class way.

They of course questioned the employee and the museum’s rules. I would’ve too, and had made a huge scene while I was at it. The family was told they could borrow a museum wheelchair for their daughter as an option to enter, because it was cleaner (*eye roll*), but anyone who uses a wheelchair full-time knows that’s a truly thoughtless option – using generic museum wheelchairs just isn’t an option for most of us.

And this is especially true for kids who use wheelchairs. When they’re smaller not to mention growing, hopping into another chair is dangerous despite being unbelievably uncomfortable.

The good news about this story is that it does end well….sort of. Apparently the employee had misinterpreted the museum’s policy regarding wheelchairs and was fired the next day. Here’s a letter the museum sent to the family:

“While the staff member did not act with malice, her unilateral disregard of Lexi and her family, our written policy (which had just been discussed again earlier that same week as a proactive reminder) and violation of the spirit of our policy (which would have resulted in welcoming assistance — bringing the wheelchair up both flights of stairs) was a shocking, unilateral and egregious departure from our policy, both written and understood and a heartbreaking lack of judgment. She has been dismissed,” they stated.

Is it just me or is this still really vague? So there is a museum wheelchair, but patrons aren’t obligated to use it? What about the whole “dirty wheels” bs?

I have been a wheelchair-user for 20 years and only *once* has anything remotely close to this has happened to me, and uncannily it was at a museum as well – House on the Rock in Wisconsin. I was about to roll out onto the “Infinity Bridge,” an all-class jutting out piece of architecture that had a ramp, but they told me I wasn’t allowed out on it due to “liability reasons.” Why the ramp then? For strollers? *headshake* I meekly rolled away heartbroken, missing out on the epic view.

The Haas family has no plans to sue the museum, despite having an awesome case on their hands. I wonder if that might change the more press this story gets? All I know is that a letter of apology doesn’t seem enough.

Read more on the story from CBS News

What do you think? How should the museum best make amends?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

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