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Perservation League of NYS
Disability Justice in Preservation
Ottawa, Ontario
October 19, 2022
Historic sites can struggle with modern accessibility requirements. But how can we push past compliance to build a truly equitable and accessible baseline for everyone who engages with historic buildings? This Zoom panel will explore work being done around disability justice in the preservation field, to go beyond ADA access and look at a more holistic vision for accessibility in historic spaces.

Featured Speakers:

Nicole Belolan is a historian of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American social and cultural history and specializes in disability history. She earned a PhD in the History of American Civilization and an MA from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, both at the University of Delaware. Currently, Belolan is the Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers University-Camden where she directs a continuing education program in historic preservation. As part of her work at Rutgers, she is also the Co-Editor/Digital Media Editor for the National Council on Public History. She publishes and speaks regularly about disability history and access and inclusion. Nicole is the Secretary of the Disability History Association sits on her municipal Environmental Commission. She is working on restoring her 1916 house with her husband.

Laura Leppink is currently the Board Chair of Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps, which seeks "to engage the next generation in the preservation trades by partnering with skilled trades professionals and Project Hosts to provide engaging hands-on learning experiences." In her professional position, Laura is a research and access assistant, working collaboratively with Dr. Gail Dubrow and Sarah Pawlicki at the University of Minnesota (UMN). Collectively their work explores how to bring disability justice to the many fields included in heritage conservation. Before completing her Masters in Heritage Studies and Public History degree at the UMN in 2020, Laura worked on historic preservation trade crews at the Western Center for Historic Preservation, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps. During this time, she fell in love with the preservation trades and actively advocates for the preservation of our intangible trades skills alongside the conservation of our built environment. Laura continues to teach and complete window and cemetery restoration projects in addition to her academic pursuits.

Perri Meldon serves as a Park History fellow in the National Park Service. Based in central Virginia, she supports initiatives to expand U.S. disability history in educational and interpretive programming at parks nationwide. Perri is also a PhD candidate at Boston University, where she studies the history of American public lands and the communities that surround them.

Manar-ul Islam Swaby (she|they) is the founder and principal strategist of Sway B Access LLC, a language access and ADA effective communication consulting organization. Manar works with nonprofit organizations and government entities such as National Geographic, the City of Boston, and King County, WA to advance their accessibility practices, centering residents with disabilities and who use languages other than English. Currently, Manar is leading an initiative within the Historic House Trust of NYC, a public-private partnership with the NYC Parks Department, to improve their accessibility practices across their 23 historic house museums.

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