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Summer 2017 Fellows standing or seated in wheelchairs, smiling and posing for the camera

Nicole Olarsch, Jewish Inclusion Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Summer 2021

Nicole Olarsch smiling headshot

Nicole Olarsch

Nicole Olarsch was a Jewish Inclusion Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer and Fall 2021. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Olarsch is from New York’s Hudson Valley, but has found a home in Lancaster, PA after attending Franklin & Marshall College. Olarsch graduated from F&M in the Spring of 2021, with a BA in Sociology and Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Olarsch’s interests in disability advocacy derive from her personal experiences with disability. Having received accommodations in school, she has realized how important it is to advocate for and receive such accommodations, noting that it may be easier for organizations to grant accommodations than to actually provide them.

During her time at F&M, Olarsch became a Jewish Engagement Fellow for Hillel. She dedicated herself to making members aware of the intersectionality between Judaism and disability, and advocating for inclusion. She introduced a number of new programs and practices in furtherance of this goal, including making gluten free and vegan challah for those with food allergies, and advocating for more inclusive Shabbat prayer services and spaces for those with physical disabilities.

Olarsch was also involved in the building of a new club on F&M’s campus, The Deaf and Disabled Student Union, and worked closely with other students on campus to spread awareness surrounding the campus climate, and the increased need for more faculty training about accommodations and students with disabilities. She was particularly outspoken about ways to increase understanding of resources available to students and faculty alike with disabilities.

Olarsch became interested in joining RespectAbility after hearing about the Fellowship program through a former Fellow. She knew this would be the perfect opportunity for her, because the environment and people allow for complete acceptance of disability, which is something that’s rare. Nicole is hoping that during her time with RespectAbility, she will be able to hone her skills in advocating for disability access and inclusion, while also making valuable and unparalleled connections with others who share her goals. She is looking forward to furthering access and inclusion in her local Jewish community. Her future plans include attending law school and, ultimately, practicing disability rights law, as well as pursuing graduate studies in psychology.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Nicole Olarsch

Nicole Olarsch graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in the Spring of 2021, with a BA in Sociology and Gender and Sexuality Studies. She was involved in the building of a new club on campus, The Deaf and Disabled Student Union.

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