Disability History

The Telling All Americans’ Stories (TAAS) Disability History series brings attention to some of the many disability stories interwoven across the National Park Service’s 400+ units and its programs. “Disability stories” refer to the array of experiences by, from, and about people with disabilities represented across our nation. People with disabilities are the largest minority in the United States, but their stories often remain untold. By exploring the histories associated with different national parks, National Historic Landmarks, and listings in the National Register of Historic Places, this series aims to highlight a number of threads from the varied and complex narratives of American disability history. Beginning with an introduction, this series is organized around themes stretching across the past three centuries. These themes include Early and Shifting Attitudes of Treatment, Educational Reform, Military and Disability, Presidents and Disability, the Disability Rights Movement, and the National Park Service and Accessibility.

Disability history does not follow a single, chronological thread. Instead, it is a flow of simultaneous triumphs and struggles. This series highlights some of the strides we have made in the United States towards disability rights, services, and independence. It also explores how members of the disability community and the disability rights movement connect and intersect with other social movements and communities. This series focuses on telling selected stories through historic places. It offers a glimpse into some of the rich and varied history of Americans with disabilities, serving as a foundation for understanding broad ideas in American disability history.

Connect with the full series here.


This series was written by Perri Meldon, National Council for Preservation Education Intern with the National Park Service Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education in 2017.

Acknowledgements: April Antonellis, Christine Arato, Bill Arey, Doug Baynton, Jean Bergey, Laurie Block, Ray Bloomer, Paloma Bolasny, Susan Burch, Jeremy Buzzell, Mia Carey, Laura Cohen, Caridad de la Vega, Michele Hartley, Patty Henry, Jeff Joeckel, Felicia Kornbluh, Catherine Kudlick, Barbara Little, Mara Mills, Samantha Nelson, Kim Nielsen, Katie Orr, Katherine Ott, Sara Patton, Mike Rembis, Ashlynn Rickord, Kathryn Smith, Megan Springate, Kara Stella, Sherril Lee York.

Statue of President FDR in a wheelchair.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial by Robert Graham.

Photo by Ingfbruno (CC BY-SA 3.0; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USA-Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt_Memorial.jpg).

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