On July 13: Launch of the Website on the History of the Wheelchair at Carleton’s Summit on Accessibility

The website is now available since July 13 at the following address:

We would be delighted if you could take a look at the exhibit and add your thoughts on how we can encourage interdisciplinary discussion of technology, mobility, and accessibility. Please feel free to forward this email to others who you feel would also be interested.

Our research assistant Dorothy Smith will present a poster and a talk on the project on the history of the wheelchair in Canada at the Accessibility Summit, from July 13 to July 15, 2014, at Ottawa’s Convention Centre.

Her  poster will be on display for the duration.

wheelchair poster jpg

The Wheelchair: An Artifact History of Disability in Canada

Carleton University’s virtual exhibit on wheelchair history in Canada asks the viewer to see the narratives created by medical and social models of disability as well as changes in technology, users, societal assumptions and behaviours over time. The goal is to encourage one to examine “intersectionalities” between people with disabilities, environmental, attitudinal, and technological change. As well, it seeks to while alert non-professionals to the ways disability is constructed out of impairment.

Her talk will be on July 13, at 2:45.

Session: World of Good Practices (Room: 206 + 208, level 2)

A fast paced, information packed session designed to share good practices and innovative approaches. Presenters will share their solutions to the challenges faced when creating greater accessibility and inclusion in the community, workplace, learning and living environments.

Retrofitting Cadboro Beach
Stefanie Barber (Canada)

Measure of Accessibility to Urban Infrastructure
Stephanie Gamache, Occupational Therapist, M.Sc., PH.D., Universite Laval (Canada)

Castle on a Hill:  Balancing accessibility with cultural landscape and natural environments
Dorota Grudniewicz, Project Manager Landscape Architect, National Capital Commission (Canada)

The Role of the Disability Community in Creating Social Change: The AODA Experience (media presentation)
David Lepofsky, University of Toronto (Canada)

The Wheelchair: An Artifact History of Disability in Canada

Dorothy-Jane Smith, Research Assistant, Carleton University (Canada)

Best Practices for Post-Production and Emerging Forms of Described Video
Robert Pearson, Director, Accessible Media Inc. (Canada)

The Development, Testing and Refinement of the School Accessibility Tool (SAT)
Nicole Yantzi, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, Laurentian University (Canada)

A Person Centered and Social Capital Approach to Community Inclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Keenan Wellar, Co-Leader and Director of Communications, LiveWorkPlay (Canada)


I am helping to supervise the research on technologies of disability in Canada. Dorothy Smith is working on the history of the wheelchair in Canada, with the help of Design engineer Adrian Chan and Social Work Professor Roy Hanes.

We would like to recognize a major partner, Dr. David Pantalony, curator of Physical Sciences and Medicine at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. His support gave us access to the core artifacts found in the exhibit

As well, we thank the Carleton Centre for Public History who is hosting the exhibit on their website DH@CWorks (

Thanks also to Carleton University for funding this collaborative project through the CIF.

More on Disability Studies

I wrote a short review of the work done by historians of disability and the Canadian Disability Studies Association for the Bulletin of the Canadian Historical Association of May 2013: click HERE for versions in French and in English.

Carleton is starting its new minor in Disability Studies this September.  To learn more, click HERE



One Day Workshop on the History of Humanitarian Aid to Welcome Dr. Kevin O’Sullivan – July 9, 2014 at Carleton


Dr. Kevin O’Sullivan will be a visiting scholar at Carleton University from July 8 to August 4.  in Ottawa this coming July to research Canadian archives.  Kevin is the architect of the rich and the author of many studies of Irish humanitarianism.   He is researching countries of the Commonwealth.  (See a little more below)

We will start at 8:30 in the morning and finish at supper time.  There will probably be three distinct themes to be announced, in addition to a short presentation by Kevin on the state of affairs amongst his colleagues.

This will be an occasion to exchange concerns, findings, information about archives and documents, practices and projects, along a schedule that have yet to be determined depending on who will be able to come.

Will Tait and I will coordinate the day, and help you find the day, make sure that there is food for all during the day.  We do not have too much money, but do tell me if you would need assistance for your travel and accommodation.  We can also direct you to some hotels and Bed and breakfasts, and Will has offered to house two graduate students.

Exhibition of my students’ posters on the history of humanitarian aid, Carleton Library, Discovery Center, March 25 – April 15 2014


Poster presentations, First session out of three, 25 March 2014, Discovery Center.  

The 45 students of HIST 3111 have researched topics as varied as missionaries in colonial Latin America to humanitarian aid and LGBTQ rights, and the Kindertransport.  Their posters will be on a rotating exhibition in Carleton University McOdrum Library’s Discovery Center (fourth floor)  for the coming three weeks. Thanks to Ashleigh Fleicher of the Discovery Centre  and Ingrid Draayer, exhibition specialist at the Library, for their assistance.

display P1010960










Rolling poster exhibition, second week, April 1-8 2014  (photo Ingrid Draayer)

My Course on the history of humanitarian aid starts today


This course surveys the history of humanitarian agencies from their missionary and anti-slavery ancestors to the present times.  It teaches students the vocabulary useful for the understanding of humanitarianism. It introduces them to the historiography of the subject, the debates, approaches, explanations and interpretations of the major scholars, and the documents they use to write this history.  It presents the main events, the actors, ideas, institutions, and questions. It helps make sense of the current situation of humanitarian aid, which is complex and controversial, and which represents an increasingly large domain of social life and public action.

See outline

Documentary on the Federal Election of 1945

Watch my interview on the CPAC program aired last Sunday : The Gentle RevolutionThe campaigns jpeg

The Gentle Revolution – The Federal Election of 1945 By all accounts 1945 was a pivotal year in Canada’s history; it marked the end of six years of war, soldiers were returning home and Canadians were looking to create a fairer, brighter future. On June 11, 1945 Canadians headed to the polls for the country’s 20th general election. The majority voted for a new social order and with it came the birth of the welfare state. It transformed the lives of many Canadians and redefined the way our nation was run.

This week, my article on “children’s rights from below” published

tl copySee table of content.

in Taking Liberties

A History of Human Rights in Canada

David Goutor and Stephen Heathorn

“Universal human rights are considered to be a fundamental, inalienable aspect of Canadian legal culture, not to mention central to our international positioning. However the reality is that Canada was surprisingly slow to adopt the rights revolution that followed the Second World War, given concerns that existing norms and liberties could conflict with these new universal rights. Moreover, even when Canada did sign up, these rights were not all automatically put into practice. Nor, interestingly, did all groups embrace these rights.
Human rights, as we know, did become entrenched. There have been challenges to and changes in the legal framework of citizenship in Canada. But this has followed a long process of transformation, and many groups have faced tremendous struggle to get their rights claims recognized. This collection sheds new lights on the bumpy road toward universal human rights in our diverse and complex country. […] New research in the growing new field of human rights history explores the novelty of, the struggle for, and the limitations of, the new rights regime, and its uneven application across Canadian society.”

Come and see my presentation on the history of Oxfam in Canada, Friday 22 November at 11:30

On the occasion of International Education Week, Carleton’s Oxfam Club has a table in Carleton’s Galleria (University Centre).

I will show my slides and talk about Oxfam in Canada since 1962, from 11:30 to  12:30.

Oxfam insert in Readers Digest, Canada, 1964.  Archives of Oxfam UK, Bodleian Library(On the left, yhis is one of the first publicity of Oxfam in Canada, inserted in the Readers Digest of 1964 by Lynn Ten Kate, who visited Canada from Oxford in 1963-4 for 7 months, and whom I interviewed two years ago.)

My blog on how Canadian humanitarians view history was posted on the Transnational page of the VAHS


VAHS jprg

On 30 October 2013, the first Canadian Humanitarian Conference was hosted in Ottawa by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The 9 year-old Humanitarian Coalition organised the conference on ‘The Future of Humanitarian Response: Towards More Effective, Accountable and Innovative Approaches’. We are pleased to be able to share the reflections on this gathering of Professor Dominique Marshall, Chair of History at Carleton University.