CHA 2016 Poster

Below is the poster we have created to present during the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting. It focuses on our latest creation, the virtual exhibit “Envisioning Technologies”. Please use your mobile device to read the QR codes at the bottom right hand corner of the poster to get access to the online exhibit and the accessible text of the poster. This text is the following:

Envisioning Technologies:  A Virtual  Exhibit on the History of Disability in Canada

Through stories of activism, ingenuity and mechanical innovation, this exhibit considers how people who were blind or partially sighted reshaped broader discourses of disability, technology and access in Canada from 1820-present.

The Emergence of Braille Technologies: Braille technologies, like the braillewriter, would be imported into Canada from the late 19th century onward. Yet activist Edgar B.F. Robinson and others still had to struggle with sighted administrators well into the 20th century before braille was fully integrated into the education system.

Swail and the NRC: James Swail, a scientist who was blind since childhood, designed assistive devices with the National Research Council from 1947 to the 1980s. One example was the punched-card reader he built in 1968 that enabled computer programmers who were blind to work faster and independently.

Galarneau and the Converto-Braille: Roland Galarneau was a Public Works mechanic from Hull, Quebec with 2 percent vision. He laboured in his basement for decades until 1972 when he designed the first prototype of a braille transcriber he called the Converto Braille. This machine would eventually be sold internationally.

CNIB Memories and Futures: The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, founded in 1918, was the product of long-standing activism on the part of people who were blind or partially sighted. CNIB workers, like Howard “Howie” Knapman, trained others to use technologies to assist in education and employment.

The Talking ATM: The first “talking” ATM in the world was installed in Ottawa at an RBC branch in 1997. It was the product of a landmark human rights case initiated by activists Chris and Marie Stark, as well as the ingenuity of Sharlyn Ayotte, founded of T-Base Communications, an Ottawa-based tech company dedicated to accessible design.

Created by Carleton University’s Disability Research Group:                                          

Adrian Chan, Department of Systems  and Computer Engineering

George Duimovich, MacOdrum Library

Roy Hanes, School of Social Work

Dominique Marshall, Department of History

Richard Marsolais, Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Beth A. Robertson, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies

Dorothy-Jane Smith, Department of History

Photography, Research and Design: Beth A. Robertson

Supporters: Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Canadian Urban Library Council, Carleton University Research Office, Centre for Equitable Library Access, National Research Council of Canada, New Sun Joy MacLaren Adaptive Technology Centre

[Footer: Carleton University Logo,, Carleton University’s Disability Research Group]

Image content:

1) A red, wooden braillewriter handmade by Roland Galarneau in 1962, now held at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum.

2) A black, cast iron and brass “Picht” braillewriter, made in Germany c.1900, now held at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum

3) One of James Swail’s initial models of the punched card reader, made of brass with braille markings, c.1968,  now held at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum.

4) A later model of the braille transcriber made by Roland Galarneau, c.1982, metallic blue in colour, which he referred to as the Converto Braille. It was renamed a “Versapoint printer” when the design was purchased by Telesensory Systems, a Californian company in 1982 who would sell the machine on the global market. Now held at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum.




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