PHILADELPHIA -- A federal judge says the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia violated the rights of severely disabled guests by forcing them to pay two entrance fees - one for them and another for their caretakers.
Judge Gerald McHugh, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that the science museum violated a section of the Americans with Disability Act by failing to grant disabled visitors "full and equal access" to the facilities.
He ruled Friday that personal care assistants were only there to help the disabled visitors participate in the museum's exhibits. The Franklin Institute was ordered to adopt new policies on waiving such admission fees.
A lawyer who represents the plaintiffs said Monday that without such assistants "many severely disabled people cannot visit and enjoy these facilities."
The Franklin Institute said in a statement that it has a long history of serving the disabled community and had made many attempts to resolve the matter with the plaintiffs.
"We strongly disagree with the decision of the District Court, and will explore all of our options," the statement said.
The museum said it has served the disabled community through access programs and "far-reaching education and outreach initiatives."