A disabled New Hanover County man says he is being discriminated against. Thomas Arthur has been a member at the Inlet Watch Yacht Club for the past 27 years. Mr. Arthur says marina staff had always been accommodating when it came to helping him access his boat, until new management took over. Eighteen years ago, complications following a car accident left Thomas Arthur in a wheel chair. While many of his activities had to change, Mr. Arthur still enjoys going out on his boat. He owns several boat slips at Inlet Watch Yacht Club, and says the staff there used to help him out by holding his boat just above the water so he could slide himself over the edge. Mr. Arthur says the new manager that took over a few years ago will not let his staff help anymore. "This is the third summer I've been unable to get in and out of my boat, after having been a member there for 27 years and paying $3,000 a year in homeowners dues. They just said we'll discontinue any service to you,” said Arthur. Inlet Watch manager, Troy Moore says that is not the case. "We are actively pursuing means to provide the highest level of accessibility and access,” said Moore. After Moore took over the marina, he installed a chair for the handicapped, but Mr. Arthur said it is impossible to use by himself. He says it is dangerous, and when he did try to use it, it malfunctioned and literally dumped him into the bottom of his boat. Mr. Arthur said the marina staff refused to help. "They told their dock boys do not do anything for him other than raise the boat, I mean put the boat in the water and take it out, you're not allowed to help him down the ramp, if he comes in at low tide and the ramp is real steep, you're not allowed to assist him up the ramp,“ said Arthur. Mr. Arthur said he had to call the paramedics for help when the marina staff refused to help him out of the bottom of his boat. Mr. Moore said his staff is not trained to help the handicapped, and letting them do so opens the marina up to a lawsuit if something went wrong. Mr. Arthur said he offered to sign a waiver releasing the marina from any liability, but when that did not work; he filed a discrimination claim with the Department of Justice. "Unfortunately, I’m unable to comment any further regarding this situation, because of the status, what is occurring here as well as the claim that's been filed,” said Moore. Moore says Inlet Watch has spent thousands of dollars trying to make the marina handicapped-friendly. Mr. Arthur says he did not ask them to spend any money, he just needs a hand. "They should just be helping me out. As a human being, they should just be helping me out," said Arthur. Mr. Arthur's claim with the Department of Justice is still processing. WWAY spoke to Wilmington Attorney Griff Anderson, who says this is a bit of a gray area in the terms of the law. While a business is expected to make reasonable accommodations to help the handicapped, they are not required to provide any kind of personal escort for a handicapped customer. If Mr. Arthur were to get hurt while the marina staffers were helping him, they could face some liability. However, attorneys tell WWAY that many businesses are willing to assume some risk in order to help people with physical challenges, especially people who have been customers for as long as Thomas Arthur.
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