Following the Second World War, George Klein turned his talents to wheelchairs for disabled military personnel, inventing an innovative joystick controlled, battery powered wheelchair. He considered this his greatest achievement, and there is no doubt that it improved the mobility and quality of life for many. But Klein’s electric wheelchair was not Canada’s only leading-edge technology for the disabled.
|George Klein works on his battery powered wheelchair at the NRC. (Courtesy National Research Council of Canada Archives)|
Roland Galarneau, legally blind with just 5 percent vision, is an electrical engineer. When computers were still in their infancy in the 1960s, he envisioned a new solution for creating braille characters on paper. The printing of braille had previously been a very slow, expensive process, limiting communication as well as reading opportunities for the seeing impaired. Galarneau developed a special dot matrix-style printer with modified heads, which enabled computer controlled printing of braille books and personal communications (870277, 940204). It is particularly remarkable that, despite his disability, Galarneau also undertook the electronic design, machining and assembly himself!
|Roland Galarneau and his braille computer (CSTM 1987.0277)|
Galarneau’s achievements enabled him to establish a company that not only produced the machines, but also published documents for the seeing impaired. As computing technology evolved, so did his chip designs and the software to control them. His firm Cypihot-Galarneau Services was continued by his son and, although eventually sold, it continues to provide assistance and opportunities for tens of thousands worldwide.