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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Community News
Merrick brothers launch federal discrimination suit
Courtesy the Social Justice Law Collective
Max Gold and his brother Jake Gold in August last year visited the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum. The brothers have commenced a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Smithsonian for refusing to let Max, who is in a wheelchair, to get in a flight simulator.

Growing up, Max Gold fell in love with flying. The lifelong Merokean, now 21, grew accustomed to frequent airplane flights as he and his family would commute from Long Island to Boston to see doctors who attended to his medical care. Max’s fascination with aviation never left him — he is beginning studies this fall at Farmingdale State College, majoring in security systems with a concentration in aviation.

The trips to specialists were necessitated by a rare vascular anomaly birth defect that caused Max’s right leg to be amputated when he was 6 years old and for him to be dependent on a motorized wheelchair. Max, a graduate of Nassau County Community College, is still as active as he can be. Two weeks ago he moved into his dorm at Farmingdale State, marking the first time in his life he is living independently.

In August last year, Max took a trip with his brother, Jake Gold, an NYU nursing student who is now 25, to Washington, D.C. The brothers planned to see the capital’s many famous tourist sites. First on their list was the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. The self-described “aeronautics fanatic” was excited to see the museum had flight simulators that patrons could use.

Max and Jake said they tried to buy a ticket for an “interactive flight simulator,” which, according to the museum’s website, “perform[s] 360-degree barrel rolls,” but an employee at the ticket counter said Max could not be allowed on it — riders are secured in place by a harness that fits over two legs. The employee, however, said that Max could go on one of the museum’s other ride simulators, according to Max and Jake, and sold him a ticket for the Wings simulator.

The museum’s website describes Wings as a “ride through the history of aerial combat.” The only ride restrictions the website mentions are that users of a ride simulator must be 42 inches tall, unless accompanied by an adult, and users of an interactive flight simulator must be 48 inches tall. It also cautions pregnant women and people with back, neck or heart problems not to get on any simulator.

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