Envisioning Technologies: Panel 5 Accessible Text

Title

Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Memories, Voices and Technological Futures, 1918-2016

Main text

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) was an organization founded in 1918 for the purpose of providing technical, educational and social supports for people who were blind or partially sighted. It continues to this day and plays a fundamental role in helping people navigate a world in which sight is privileged. The CNIB was the product of long-standing activism on the part of people who were blind or partially sighted. Over the years, CNIB volunteers, like Howie Knapman, have trained others on how to operate and even repair technologies that enabled people to communicate, gain employment and live independently. Today, front-line workers, like Robert Bender, Leona Emberson and Richard Marsolais, continue this legacy.

 Image description: Image of CNIB Dictaphone Pool in Toronto (c.1930s) embedded in the text. To the right of the text are images of Robert Bender, Richard Marsolais, Leona Emberson, as well as a photograph of Emberson using a slate and stylus, photographed at the Ottawa office of the CNIB.

Envisioning Technologies: Panel 4 Accessible Text

Title

Roland Galarneau and the Converto Braille, 1960-1989

Main text

Roland Galarneau was a largely self-trained machinist and engineer born in Hull, Quebec in 1922 with two percent vision. In 1952, he built a powerful microscope, which he called a “roloscope” that enabled him to read printed material, including an array of literature on electronics. Through private study, he was eventually struck with an idea to develop a machine that would automatically transcribe written texts into Braille. This idea materialized in 1972 when he built the first “Converto-Braille”, to be followed by subsequent models that acted as a terminal, capable of converting printed material into braille. In 1982, a California-based company Telesensory System Inc., purchased the rights from Galarneau and began distributing the printer globally in 1986 as the Versapoint Printer.

Image description: Image of Roland Galarneau (c.1970) embedded within the text, working on electrical circuits. On the other side of the text are the 1972 and 1982 models of the Converto-Braille.

Envisioning Technologies: Panel 3 Accessible Text

Title

James Swail and the National Research Council of Canada, 1947-1985

Main text

James Swail (1924-2005) was a researcher with the Radio and Electrical Engineering Division of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) from 1947-1985. As a youth he was disallowed from performing laboratory work in high school on account of being blind. In response, Swail built his own laboratory at his parents’ home to prepare himself to be accepted into McGill University, where he graduated from a Bachelor of Science with distinction in 1946. The next year, Swail found employment with the NRC. While there, he built several prototypes of assistive technologies, including mobility devices, talking clocks and calculators, as well as different models of card readers that computer programmers who were blind could use to do their work faster and independently.

Image description: Image of James Swail (c.1969) embedded within the text in his NRC laboratory demonstrating the first model of his card reader. On the other side of the text are his teal-coloured “talking” clock, the first model of his brass card reader and the Swail sensor, a handheld, cylindrical aluminum device with black cap.

Envisioning Technologies: Panel 2 Accessible Text

Title

The Emergence of Braille Technologies, 1860-1951

 Main text

Louis Braille invented the writing system that was named after him in 1820s France. Braille was imported into Canada from the 1860s onward, enabling Canadians who were blind to read, write and communicate. Yet activists like Edgar B.F. Robinson and others needed to struggle with sighted administrators well into the 20th century before braille was fully integrated into the educational system. Braille also paved the way for technological innovation, from the slate and stylus to mechanical braillewriters. The first braillewriter was the US-made Hall, to be followed by the German Picht braillewriter and several more. Many view the Perkins braillewriter, developed in 1941 out of the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, as the most practical and durable of these designs –a “premiere” machine.

Image descriptions: Image of Edgar B.F. Robinson (c.1900) embedded within the text. Beside the text is a slate and stylus, vertically oriented, alongside a Hall braillewriter (c.1892), a Picht braillewriter (c.1900) and a Perkins braillewriter (c.1951).

 

Envisioning Technologies-Introductory Panel Accessible Text

Title

Envisioning Technologies: An Exhibit on the History of Disability and Technology in Canada

Main text

Through stories of activism, ingenuity and engineering innovations, this exhibit considers how people who were blind or partially sighted reshaped broader discourses of disability, technology and access in Canada from 1860-Present.

Credits

Created by Carleton University’s Disability Research Group:

Adrian D.C.Chan, Department of Systems and Computer Engineering, Carleton University

George Duimovich, MacOdrum Library, Carleton University

Roy Hanes, School of Social Work, Carleton University

Dominique Marshall, Department of History, Carleton University

Richard Marsolais, Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Sreeraman Rajan, Chair of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), Ottawa section

Beth A. Robertson, Department of History, Carleton University

Dorothy J. Smith, Department of History, Carleton University

Barbara Waruszynski, Chair of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), Ottawa section

Photography, Research and Design: Beth A. Robertson

Objects and archival materials graciously provided by the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the National Research Council and the Royal Bank of Canada.

Many thanks to our supporters:

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)                                                                     Canadian Science and Technology Museum (CSTM)
Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC)                                                                                       Carleton University (CU)                                                                                                                           Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA)                                                                                   Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Canada                                             National Research Council (NRC), Library and Archives                                                                   New Sun Joy MacLaren Adaptive Technology Centre

 Image Description:

A red, wooden braillewriter, surrounded by two images, one of a user standing next to a talking RBC ATM (1997) and the other of CNIB teacher Elizabeth Rusk instructing Edna Sharpe on how to read braille (c.1934).

 

Footer – For All Panels

[Carleton University Logo], Envisioningtechnologies.omeka.net

Carleton University’s Disability Research Group

NOTE: Two Quick Response (QR) codes are positioned at the bottom right-hand corner. The one closest to the corner, once scanned, leads to accessible text of exhibit panels. The second code, to the immediate left of the first code, leads to the virtual version of the exhibit.

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, envisioningtechnologies.omeka.net, 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.

EnvisionCHAPoster2016

 

Histories of Disability Technologies

Welcome to the online home of Carleton University’s Disability Research Group. Founded in 2013 by three members of the Disability Studies Committee at Carleton, we are a thoroughly interdisciplinary team from a wide range of scholarly and professional backgrounds. Our group presently includes a biomedical engineer, a defence scientist, a social worker, a librarian, an independent living specialist and a handful of historians. Our mission is to investigate the ways in which disability studies, technology and history interrelate, largely through researching and designing virtual exhibits.