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Inspiring Disability Journeys in National Parks

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Two park rangers looking out over Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald at the base of snow-capped mountains ©National Park Service

Strides Towards Accessibility

The National Park Service (NPS) has been a beacon of change, particularly in its approach towards hiring women with disabilities. This transformation, which began in the 1970s and 1980s, has led to inspiring stories of dedication, resilience, and impact. In recent years, the NPS has also made significant strides in improving accessibility for all visitors.

The Evolution of Language and Perception

The language and perception towards people with disabilities have significantly evolved over time. The NPS has been part of this journey, updating its terminology to reflect current standards of respect and inclusivity. This evolution in language is not just about political correctness, but about acknowledging the individuality and humanity of people with disabilities.

Martha Chapman: A Story of Persistence and Triumph

Martha Chapman, who was deaf and mute, faced numerous challenges in securing employment. However, her determination led her to the NPS where she was hired as a custodian in 1984. Her work ethic earned her praise from colleagues and supervisors alike. Despite her disability, Martha proved that she was more than capable of performing her duties effectively. Her story is a testament to the fact that disability does not define one’s ability or potential.

Cathy Lennon Ingram: Bridging the Past and the Present

Cathy Lennon Ingram, a Gallaudet College graduate, joined the NPS in 1978 as an interpreter at the Old Stone House in Washington, DC. She used sign language to demonstrate life in the 1700s. Later, she became the museum curator at Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Despite being deaf, Cathy used her unique skills to bring history to life for visitors. Her career highlights the importance of inclusivity and representation in all fields.

Lynda Anne Reynolds: A Journey Beyond Boundaries

Lynda Anne Reynolds, a Perkins School for the Blind attendee and Pepperdine University graduate, was teaching children with disabilities when she met Doug Boose, a ranger at Isle Royale National Park. Their meeting led to a marriage that transcended boundaries. Lynda’s story underscores that people with disabilities can lead fulfilling personal and professional lives.

Accessibility in National Parks

A Commitment to Inclusion “The NPS is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities have equal opportunity to benefit from our facilities, programs, services, and activities. The regulations that guide accessibility standards date back to 1961. The NPS is now in year 4 of its 5-year Accessibility Strategic Plan. Providing access to our national parks is important, and planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining accessible environments and experiences is a continual challenge.

These stories highlight the transformative journey of women with disabilities within the NPS. Their dedication and hard work have not only changed attitudes but also educated coworkers and visitors alike about the potential and capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Their stories serve as a reminder that disability is not an obstacle to success but rather a unique perspective that can enrich our understanding of the world. You can read more about these amazing women here.

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