A disabled college student from Merrick and his brother filed a federal discrimination lawsuit Thursday against the Smithsonian Institution and the operator of a flight simulator, claiming they were illegally denied access to the ride last summer during a visit to the National Air and Space Museum.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys for the SJLC -- the Social Justice Law Collective of Washington -- on behalf of Max Gold, 21, a student at Farmingdale State College and a self-described "aeronautical fanatic," and his brother, Jake, 25.
In a statement released Thursday, the SJLC said Max and Jake Gold traveled to Washington last August to visit the various Smithsonian museums. But Max Gold, who lost his right leg, was "denied the ability to use any of the flight simulators" at the National Air and Space Museum because of his disability -- even after employees at the ticket counter and at the ride told him he could go on one of them.
The statement, released by SJLC attorneys Shawn Heller and Joshua Glickman, who filed the lawsuit, said Gold and his brother were "insulted and berated by the operators of the simulator exhibit."
The suit says a supervisor ran over when Jake was lifting his brother out of his wheelchair and placing him in the ride. He and a second supervisor insisted Max Gold board the ride himself or he could not go in it, suit papers said.
A National Air and Space Museum spokeswoman, Claire Brown, said officials had not yet been served and could not comment on the suit.
The SJLC said Max Gold has used a wheelchair since a "rare vascular anomaly birth defect" caused his right leg to be amputated as a child -- and said the suit was filed because federal law requires that "places of public accommodation, executive agencies, and recipients of federal funds make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities."
The SJLC lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Max Gold, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in aviation security systems, was denied equal access and "has had to endure emotional and mental distress, anxiety, humiliation, degradation, public ridicule and shame" as a result. The lawsuit seeks unspecified "declaratory relief, damages, costs and attorneys' fees" from Pulseworks Llc and the Smithsonian.
"When someone tells me I can't do something, in this case the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, I would prefer that they don't get away with it," Max Gold said on Thursday, adding: "I would like to make sure everyone gets treated equally and since I didn't get treated equally, I would just like to set the record straight."