The Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre was established in 2016, through the merger of the Constance-Lethbridge and MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centres.
Together, these two iconic physical rehabilitation centres have served the population of Montreal for over 240 years.
Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre
The Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre’s history is firmly rooted in the Montreal community. It began in 1937 as the Occupational Therapy Centre, a merger of the the Epileptic Institute, the Occupational Therapy Department of the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the Protestant Employment Bureau’s House of Industry. With the return of soldiers after World War II, an increasing need for a range of rehabilitation services was recognized by Constance Lethbridge, a nurse and social worker who became Executive Director. In the 1951 annual report, she stated that services should focus on “the rehabilitation of the ‘total person’, rather than on just the handicap.” In 1952, the Centre accepted its first students from McGill University for internships, an affiliation that continued throughout its history.
The Centre moved to a more spacious location on Ottawa Street in 1954, offering services in occupational therapy, work orientation, speech language pathology, physiotherapy and psychology in both English and French. Following the death of Constance Lethbridge in 1962, the Centre was renamed the Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre.
As the request for services continued to grow, the Centre moved to a permanent location on de Maisonneuve Boulevard West, thanks to a grant from the J. W. McConnel Foundation which allowed it to purchase land and construct a building that could accommodate all programs and clients. In 1971, it began to offer services for children with a motor disability, which continued until the transfer of these services to the Mackay Centre in 1997.
The Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre was a leader in technology, understanding its increasing role in the shape of physical rehabilitation services. It became the first rehabilitation centre in Quebec to enter in an agreement with the SAAQ for the evaluation of driving abilities for people with a disability. Its Technical Aids Services has provided personalised mobility aids for close to 30 years, and in 2001 the Centre launched its Assistive Technology program.
In 2000, the Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre joined with five other physical disability rehabilitation centres to create the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater Montreal (CRIR). The CRIR boasts an interdisciplinary approach to scientific planning, and transdisciplinary and intersectoral research across the biomedical and psychosocial fields, for people of all ages and encompassing all physical disabilities.
MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre
Founded in 1908 by Philip E. Layton, the Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB) began with a social club, a braille lending library and a sheltered workshop. In 1912, a residential school was built for blind elementary students who were eventually integrated into their local high school in 1922 – a first in Canada. In 1947, talking books were added to the library and a low vision clinic was started in 1979. The MAB managed a residence for blind and visually impaired seniors from 1968 to 2009, later adding a Day Centre for seniors living in the community. A unique volunteer-operated weekly social activity called the Cheerio Club has been running for over 54 years, helping visually-impaired seniors combat social isolation.
The Mackay Rehabilitation Centre was the result of a merger in 1960 of two institutions, the Mackay Institution for Protestant Deaf Mutes and the School for Crippled Children. The Mackay Institution was founded in 1869 by Thomas Widd, while the School for Crippled Children began in 1916. After their merger a new site was constructed on Decarie Boulevard. At the time the Centre housed a residential school and rehabilitation centre for 59 deaf and motor-impaired children.
In 1989 the Mackay Centre began offering rehabilitation services to deaf and hard-of-hearing adults and seniors, and closed its in-patient beds in 1997, offering all rehabilitation services on an external basis only.
In 2006, the boards of directors of the MAB and Mackay Rehabilitation Centre voted on merging the two rehabilitation centres to improve services to clients of all ages with vision and hearing impairments, and for children with motor, communication, visual and hearing impairments.
The Philip E. Layton and Mackay Centre Schools are operated by the English Montreal School Board and continue to serve students with a visual, motor or language disability. The schools moved to a new facility located on Terrebonne Street in 2018.