Three Forces for Change

The 1930s saw the start of real change for people who used wheelchairs. The propulsion for change came in three forms.

 A new kind of wheelchair user appeared—war veterans with spinal cord injuries. They were young and strong and society agreed that they were owed something for their sacrifice for the nation. Their story tells about technical medical advances in new drugs, new medical hardware and new medical treatment.

The engineering story starts with an engineer with a spinal break who designed a lighter more mobile chair. It continues with war-injured veteran who persuaded the Canadian government to buy the chair for impaired veterans. The young men could fold them, place them in their car and drive off using hand controls. For people without the upper body strength to achieve that independence, a Canadian research engineer designed a better power wheelchair.

 But real change came as society changed. Individuals with mobility impairments made the difference as they insisted on accessing the education, jobs and leisure activities of mainstream Canadian society. This story continues today.