A Charlotte family says their 11-year-old daughter was not allowed into a museum recently because staff said her wheelchair would “get the carpets dirty.”
The girl, Lexi Haas, suffers from Kernicterus, a condition that has left her almost nonfunctional physically.
Lexi and her parents planned to visit the Ships of the Sea Museum in Savannah, Ga. They were worried about Lexi’s visit since the museum is located in a historical building where it would be difficult to navigate a wheelchair. But apparently the problem was not getting around the museum — it was getting into it.
When the family arrived at the museum, an employee told them that Lexi would not be allowed to enter because her wheelchair would dirty the carpets. When her father, Stephen Haas, pointed out that his shoes were just as dirty as his daughter’s wheelchair, the employee was not convinced. Museum staff told the family that if Lexi wanted to enter she would have to use one of the museum’s wheelchairs.
But Lexi cannot use a standard wheelchair. Because of her condition, she has to use a wheelchair with total body braces and supports from head to toe. The museum staff told the Haas family that they could enter the museum while Lexi was shown a video outside. As you would expect, the family did not take the museum up on their offer.
The museum has apologized to the girl and her family and say the staff did not handle the situation properly. The Haas family is not looking to file a lawsuit against the museum; they just want the story to raise awareness on the importance of accommodating people with disabilities.
"They really need to train their staff. They really do," said Lexi's mother, Susan. "It's a significant error and significant departure in the current thinking on disability access. You shouldn't restrict someone because of her disability.”