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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis illustrates the accomplishments and challenges of enhancing accessibility across the national parks, at the same time that great need to diversify the parks and their interpretation of American disability history remains. Chapters describe the administrative history of the NPS Accessibility Program (1979-present), exploring the decisions from both within and outside the federal agency, to break physical and programmatic barriers to make parks more inclusive for people with sensory, physical, and cognitive disabilities; and provide a case study of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site (HOFR) in New York. The case study describes the creation of HOFR as a house museum and national historic site, with a particular focus on the history of the site’s accessibility features; considers existing barriers; and makes recommendations for programmatic changes to improve the experience for disabled and nondisabled visitors. By collaborating with and learning from nearby organizations by and for people with disabilities, HOFR can serve as a model for other historic house museums in how to effectively interpret “disability stories.” Contemplating how the National Park Service has interpreted the histories and heritage of other historically marginalized communities through theme studies, on-site interpretation, and public history scholarship yields lessons for how best to interpret disability history and depict nuanced representations of the varied disability communities living in the U.S. The inclusion of “disability stories” and representation of people with disabilities in the past will help foster deeper connections with and welcome diverse visitors to the parks.


First Advisor

Marla Miller

Second Advisor

David Glassberg