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A Ruined Day at the Museum: Lack of Handicap Elevators

Posted July 22, 2013
Several weeks ago, on July 8, 2013, an 11 year old girl with condition similar to cerebral palsy was denied entrance to the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah, Georgia, apparently because "of her wheelchair."
The family had carried her up the steps to the museum and, upon attempting to enter, been told that the wheelchair was not allowed because the wheels would dirty the floors. The guide told the family that the museum policy allowed them two options: using one of their wheelchairs, specially made for the elderly or handicapped, or watching a video presentation about the museum on the bottom level, which was handicap accessible. The family ended up refusing both options and leaving, rather upset from the whole situation.
It was later discovered that the guide had misinterpreted museum policy, in a statement put out by the museum curator, Wendy Melton. She explained that because of the historic standing and condition of the building, there had never been a handicap elevator installed. As a consequence, the second level of the museum was not wheelchair accessible; somehow, the guide had taken that to mean that visitors with wheelchairs were not permitted to access the second floor in any manner. Melton elaborated on this matter, stating that if the family had carried the girl to the second floor, they would've been allowed to enjoy the rest of the museum's features and exhibits as any other visitor. She issued a public statement about the misunderstanding and added that she would be apologizing to the family.
The family has stated that they would not be filing any suits or complaints, just that they "really don't want this to happen to anybody else." Unfortunately, the child who had to suffer from the misunderstanding has "adamantly said no," according to the family, to the possibility of visiting the museum again in the future.
This appears to be a case in which everyone suffers in some way, whether it is the curator in the museum reputation, the guide in his or her misunderstanding, or the family and the girl who had to be turned away from a relaxing day at the museum while on vacation - and all from an issue as simple as a lack of a handicap elevator. Fortunately, the museum policy was cleared up so that situations like this particular one can be avoided in the future and no more vacations in the Sea Maritime Museum ruined.
An incident like this brings to mind how these days, handicap elevators, wheelchair lifts, and other devices enabling universal accessibility are not only becoming more prominent in modern structures and public institutions, but becoming mandatory. Because of the historic condition of the museum, the lack of a handicap elevator just happened to slip through the cracks. Yet, perhaps, at some point, these cracks will not so easily be overlooked.
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