Beyond the ADA

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has apologized for its failure to accommodate someone’s disability. The apology came after a disabled visitor had to leave for not following the museum’s bag policy despite their disability. An occurrence that spurred the museum to take precautions to prevent it from happening again.

Celeste Tooth came to the museum on a weekend to lead a group of students from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where they attend classes as a student and also work as a teaching assistant.

Tooth stated that they have previously visited the museum with their backpack. The backpack was filled with necessary medications. They have never had a problem wearing it on both shoulders, despite a requirement mandated by many museums that visitors wear backpacks on one shoulder.

A spinal condition means they can’t carry their bag on one shoulder. While walking through the museum, they were approached by a staff member. The staff member then called her supervisor.

Later a security guard suggested that the bag could be left in another room. However, the security guard had already been informed that the bag contained necessary medications. Before reaching a solution, Tooth was escorted out of the museum.

“An officer informed the visitor of our policy and offered assistance and multiple options for storing or carrying the bag in line with our policy to be inclusive and welcoming. Unfortunately, none of the accommodations were acceptable to the visitor. Upon learning of the incident, we began a review of our bag policy and the adequacy of our alternative options for visitors,” a spokesperson told WTOP.

The museum also urged Tooth to contact the chief diversity, inclusion, and belonging officer to continue the conversation and help guarantee that it does not happen again. In a July 25 post, Tooth stated that they contacted the gallery. They also received an apology.

Disabled people should have access to accommodations. Being ADA compliant is not enough. It’s 2023, and nobody should ever be without crucial medications or other medical equipment. If a business wants to be accessible, they need to listen to disabled people.


Howell, Melissa. “National Gallery of Art Apologizes Following Removal of Visitor with Disability.” WTOP News, 2 Aug. 2023,

1 comment

  1. Yes, my backpack contains urinary catheters and colostomy supplies. My fear is that the backpack would be misplaced or lost and that could cause a medical problem or simple embarrassment—no way I would give it up. These policies need to be adjusted to accommodate pwd. When people want to search my bag, such as when I enter a sports arena that requires clear bags, I find that if I tell then person what’s in there, they don’t do much searching! 😁

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