Category Archives: History of Disabilities

The Late 1980s Crisis in Toronto Public Housing Part I – Disability and Danger

Aerial photograph of a city landscape.

David M. K. Sheinin This is the first of four articles on Toronto public housing in the late 1980s. This first article introduces the series then focuses on disability and public housing. The second addresses a new social role for the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority (MTHA) that included providing breakfast for children in need and mounting after-school programs on MTHA… Read more »

Epidemic at 30,000 feet: Historical Detachment during a Pandemic

A smiling girl stands on a path, wearing a long white dress. She has one foot in a cast and is using crutches.

Tyler Britz For the past 2 years, I have been living through a pandemic, while researching a historical epidemic. In mid-2020, I had just finished up my third year of undergraduate studies at Wilfrid Laurier University when Dr. Tarah Brookfield recruited me into an undergraduate research project. The idea was to interview the generation that experienced the last major outbreak… Read more »

Who Speaks? Who Tells? Who Listens? – Part 3

Excerpt of A World Without Martha: A Memoir of Sisters, Disability, and Difference By Victoria Freeman For so many years, my knowledge of my sister had been defined more through her absence than her presence, through the shape of the void she left in my life. I had been able to approach who she was only through echoes and shadows,… Read more »

Who speaks? Who Tells? Who Listens? – Part 2

By Victoria Freeman Birds make me think about freedom. They can go where they want and don’t have to talk about it. It’s a gift in itself because it’s something that doesn’t come overnight. You have to work on it. If you have it, it’s just there, like a light. These words, from a person who lived for 20 years… Read more »

Who speaks? Who tells? Who listens? – Part 1

By Victoria Freeman In 1960, my twenty-month-old sister Martha was admitted to the Rideau Regional Centre, an institution for people with developmental disabilities located on the outskirts of Smiths Falls, Ontario. For the next thirteen years she would live in this isolated and overcrowded complex of 50 buildings that at its peak housed 2,600 inmates. I use the word ‘inmate’… Read more »

Jean Little: Celebrating Friendship and Kindness

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By Catherine Carstairs One of Canada’s best-known children’s writers, Jean Little, passed away at the beginning of April at the age of 88.  With COVID-19 dominating the news cycle, her death attracted little attention. And yet, as we live through a severe epidemic, perhaps we need Jean Little’s wisdom more than ever.  Little created a world in which injustice was… Read more »

A Short History of Reading Disability and Special Education

By Jason Ellis, University of British Columbia When a child does not learn to read, what does the school do? The answer has varied over time, and the history of this topic tells us something about special education as well. In the nineteenth century, if not earlier than that, physicians described “word-blindness” and “alexia.” They considered these rare and peculiar… Read more »

Thalidomide and the UK Welfare State: How a Unique Tragedy Showed the Problems of All People With Disability

This post was presented to the Carleton University Disability Research Group earlier this year and is cross-posted on their website. By Jameel Hampton Beginning with the recognition of the special needs of disabled schoolchildren in the 1880s, the British state took on the welfare of groups of disabled people perceived to be deserving of statutory welfare. Disabled ex-servicemen and blind… Read more »

Living History Installation in Vancouver: MAD CITY, Legacies of MPA

By Megan J. Davies MAD CITY: Legacies of MPA, a historical exhibit at Vancouver’s Gallery Gachet, is based on a radical idea: that people with a psychiatric diagnosis should create and run the support services they need. Using the lens of the past, MAD CITY invites visitors to imagine a mental health system conceived and directed by “experiential experts”: people… Read more »

Virtual Spaces, Contested Histories: A Retrospective of a One-Day Symposium on “Envisioning Technologies”

By Roy Hanes and Beth A. Robertson   Technological advances have historically been integral to creating inclusive spaces of learning, whether in schools, universities or public libraries, especially as the discourse has shifted from one of ‘charity’ to a human right. Yet how does one tell that story in an online format that is similarly inclusive and accessible? On Thursday,… Read more »