Disability History Featured Places

Parks

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, we safeguard these more than 400 places and share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year. Find a few of those stories here and then Find a Park to find more of all Americans' stories.

Since the 1930s, children with disabilities have attended Camp Greentop in Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland. In 1936, the National Park Service invited the Maryland League of Crippled Children to use their camp space. At that time, only 24 camps for children with disabilities existed in the United States. Camp Greentop remains active today.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Hawai'i contains what was once a forced isolation center for people with leprosy (now more properly known as Hansen's disease). This is a contagious condition that affects the skin and nervous system. Until the 1940s, there was no effective medical treatment. From the 1860s through the 1960s, over 8,000 people with Hansen's disease were sent to the isolation center. In 1980, the National Park Service established Kalaupapa National Historical Park, encompassing both the isolation center and its surrounding landscape. The park works with local descendants and community to help interpret and represent this troubled history.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Church Creek, Maryland share Tubman's dedication to public service over her lifetime. She helped dozens of families escape slavery and move to the north. A childhood trauma influenced Tubman's decision to rescue others. Born into slavery, Tubman was attacked by a slave owner, receiving significant wounds to her head. The injury resulted in lifelong seizures and narcoleptic episodes. She described these as visions in which she communicated with God. Tubman claimed these spells inspired her life's work to abolish slavery.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall in DC commemorates this president who played a significant role in the history of the United States and of the National Park Service. In 1934, he said, "There is nothing so American as our national parks.... The fundamental idea behind the parks...is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” Included in the memorial is a statue of FDR in his wheelchair. He required a wheelchair after a childhood illness.

Other Places


The National Park Service cares for America's more than 400 national parks…and works in almost every one of her 3,141 counties. We are proud that tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individual citizens ask for our help in revitalizing their communities, preserving local history, celebrating local heritage, and creating close to home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun. Find a few selected important places outside the parks here and explore the links for more. Then explore what you can do to share your own stories and the places that matter to you.

The Volta Laboratory and Bureau building, a National Historic Landmark in Washington, DC, was constructed in 1893 under the direction of Alexander Graham Bell to serve as a center of information for deaf and hard of hearing persons. Bell, best known for receiving the first telephone patent in 1876, was also an outstanding figure of his generation in the education of the deaf.

Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, Ohio is nationally significant for its central role in the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a global organization whose mission is to assist alcoholics in achieving and maintaining sobriety. Along with William Griffith Wilson (Bill W.), Robert Smith is considered a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The establishment of AA marked a turning point in the history of alcoholism and its treatment.

Three of the structures located at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, Alabama -- the cottage, the main house, and water pump -- served as the birthplace, early childhood home, and site of communication breakthrough for Helen Adams Keller. The homestead was the site of the pivotal experiences which led up to Keller's emergence in the forefront of the effort to provide better methods and facilities to educate people with disabilities.

Established in 1867, the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (now the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center) was the second of the original three branches established by the newly formed Board of Managers. Located on the west side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the 400 acre campus sits just south of the Milwaukee Brewer’s Miller Park baseball stadium and the Silurian Fossil Reef, a geological site designated as the Soldiers’ Home Reef National Historic Landmark.
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    Last updated: November 20, 2019