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A Wheelchair History of Disability in Canada

The Wheelchair is:—

            An engineered, manufactured and commercial object;

            A therapeutic and assistive technology object;

            A symbolic object.

It is also an artifact in museum collections which can tell a story. If we look through the wheel of a wheelchair, we can see places where physical impairments were visible and where they were invisible. We can see the medical profession’s expectations for the injured and infirm. We can see rehabilitation experts defining goals for the bodies of those who could not walk. We can see engineers, tinkerers, and the women who cared for the sick re-designing the wheelchair to meet changing needs.

Look far enough and we can see the people who used a chair, what the wheelchair cost them and what they gained.

Carleton University, with its partner museums, presents how Canada and the wheelchair changed each other.

Explore our wheelchair collection. What do you see?

Credits

Dorothy-J. Smith