A wheelchair-bound Merrick man disabled since his right leg was amputated as a child filed a lawsuit along with his brother Thursday alleging disability discrimination against Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum after he was barred from a flight simulator and humiliated afterward.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., also names Pulsework, LLC., a Georgia-based company responsible for staffing and operating the flight simulator.
The complaint stems from a trip 21-year-old Max Gold took with his brother Jake Gold last summer to the nation’s capital to visit some of its many museums.
It was at the National Air & Space Museum that Max, an aviation security systems student at SUNY Farmingdale College, who suffers from a rare vascular anomaly birth defect that caused him to have his right leg amputated at six years old, was told the flight simulator may be unsafe because the harness that protects riders is meant for a full body, the brothers said during a conference call with reporters.
Max decided to try a second simulator—a ride with a TV screen that moves back and forth—with Jake’s help, but was told by a supervisor that it’s against company policy for someone to be lifted into the ride, Jake said.
The suit also alleges that the supervisor suggested Max get up from the wheelchair and walk up the stairs into the simulator himself—something his disability prevents him from doing, the brothers said.
“Jake was trying to say to her ‘obviously he can’t do that,’” Max told reporters. “We went back and forth with her for about five minutes and until all words were exhausted, until all ideas, suggestions were trade against each other; we decided to call it quits because we realized that we were not getting anywhere.”
“We were vehemently denied based upon Max’s disability,” Jake said, adding that it was a “slap in the face” coming from a publicly funded institution.
A Smithsonian Institution spokeswoman could not comment on the allegations because they had yet to be served with the complaint, she said.
Officials at Pulsework, LLC, could not be reached for comment.
“The reason why I’m bringing this lawsuit is whenever somebody tells me that I am unable to do something…I rather that they don’t get away with it,” Max said. “I just would like to make sure that no other person gets treated differently and I also would like to make sure that everyone gets treated equally.”
The brothers are not seeking any specific monetary damages, said Shawn Heller, their attorney with the Social Justice Law Collective.