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Smithsonian Being Sued For Restricting Access To Flight Simulator

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Max Gold at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum last summer.
Jacob Fenston
Max Gold at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum last summer.

Max Gold has been a fan of aviation since he was just five or six years old. It started because he spent so much time on planes.

"I had doctors all around the U.S.," Gold says.

He was flying all over the country to treat the rare vascular condition that confined him to a wheel chair.

"The amount of time I spent on a plane it just all caught up to me," he says.

So when he and his brother, Jake, visited Washington last summer, their first stop had to be the Air and Space Museum. But when Jake started to lift him into the flight simulator there, Max says a supervisor started running toward them, yelling to put him down.

Jake says this has never happened before.

"Normally places are happy to help, and they're happy to make accommodations," Jake says.

By not making an accommodation, the brothers allege the Smithsonian broke federal and D.C. law.

"A lot of times what it is, is that people's initial instinct is to say no, we can't do it. And that really is unfortunate," says Jake.

Robert Dinerstein, director of American University's Disability Rights Law Clinic, says there may have been a simple solution for museum officials.

"For example, they could have asked the Golds to sign a waiver, saying we release you from any liability from my lifting my brother into the cockpit," Dinerstein says.

A Smithsonian spokesperson says the institution is committed to accessibility, and is looking into the allegations.

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