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Disabled girl barred from museum because wheelchair would "get the carpet dirty"

A disabled Charlotte girl was barred from visiting a maritime museum because her wheelchair would "get the carpet dirty," her family claims.

Dr. Ken Haas told CBS affiliate WBTV in Savannah, Ga. that his family had traveled to Savannah for a weekend trip. They tried to enter the Ships of the Sea Museum, but were stopped at the door when they tried to wheel their daughter, Lexi, in. An employee told them at the door that her wheelchair was too dirty to come inside.

"They said wheelchairs are okay, but not hers," he said. "I said, 'But my shoes walk right behind her wheelchair. They've been in exactly the same place!'"

Lexi has kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. In newborns, bilirubin can build up and cause jaundice, which makes the skin turn yellowish. In extreme cases it can lead to brain damage and developmental disabilities. Lexi's parents said she has lost control of her motor functions.

Lexi was allowed to use a wheelchair that was owned by the museum, but her parents explained that she could not use it because her special wheelchair has straps that help hold her up. They were then told Lexi could sit outside and watch a special video while the rest of the family went through the museum.

Museum curator Wendy Melton confirmed the family's story to WBTV, but added that the employee misunderstood the rules. While there is a wheelchair available for people to use, no one is required to use it.

The museum sent a letter to the family apologizing.

"While the staff member did not act with malice, her unilateral disregard of Lexi and her family, our written policy (which had just been discussed again earlier that same week as a proactive reminder) and violation of the spirit of our policy (which would have resulted in welcoming assistance -- bringing the wheelchair up both flights of stairs) was a shocking, unilateral and egregious departure from our policy, both written and understood and a heartbreaking lack of judgment. She has been dismissed," they stated.

The Haas family doesn't plant to take legal action, but they don't want other families to go through what they went through.

"They really need to train their staff. They really do. It's a significant error and significant departure in the current thinking on disability access," Lexi's mother Susan Haas said.

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