Name & Pronouns: Anne Malone (she/her)
Involvement with the SJCNL: Member and Organizer Since 2021
Q: Where do you call home?
A: I call St. John's, NL home. I have spent a lot of time in Costa Rica but have never had residency there. I love Costa Rica because the country is so environmentally focused and they have a very socialized approach to education and health care. The University of Peace is there and they are in general an incredibly progressive county.
Q: Tell us about how your background and life experiences have led you toward social justice work.
A: I was always drawn to social justice issues but had never aligned myself with a specific organization. I was part of Project Ploughshares, which formed in the 1970’s and is a group who worked with governments, and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence and build peace. For me I connected with them when world peace was an idea in the 1980’s anti-nuclear movement . Then I focused on child rearing and in 2008 I acquired a disability. My sight loss was something that I could not ignore and my status in the world had changed.
Opportunities evaporated. I experienced chronic unemployment. That, coupled with all of the barriers, led me to advocate for an accessible urban environment. From there I moved my focus on pedestrian rights and I began to encounter barriers one by one. As my vision decreased, I understood intimately how moving through an urban environment with ease and safety was paramount. Then the next barrier that came with my vision loss was to print media. Through that experience, I learned two things:
It was important to advocated for accessibility in our municipalities
I realized that many people who have disabilities struggle with poverty because of under employment and lack of government support. They struggle with discriminatory bias and that is significant particularly for people who need assistive technology to read. Those technologies are not free, they are very expensive; for example, a screen reader costs over $2000.00.
Having a disability affects everything in your life. It must be noted that people who have disabilities are often caught in a poverty loop. One of the most devastating aspects of sight loss is that barriers to print. We have advancements with computer technology, but for people with sensory disabilities, you need a technology which will enable you to actually access the technology such as the internet. You feel so isolated.
Q: Why did you join the SJCNL?
A: I joined the SJC when I was connected with Dr Elizabeth Yeoman. In 2012 she was working on a short documentary called ‘Honk If You Want Me Off The Road' which was about the difficulties pedestrians encountered in St. John’s in the winter. And around that time a group emerged at the SJC, called Challenge Car culture, which was advocating for year-round sidewalk accessibility in St. Johns. It was through Elizabeth that I became aware of and joined the SJC.
Q: What are your core beliefs and how do they influence how you participate in the SJCNL?
A: My core belief is that we live in a world of abundance with very poorly distributed resources. Therefore, my heart always goes to support people who are living with a burden of poverty and the kind of inaccessible connection between poverty, race poverty, gender poverty and disabilities. I began to understand that these things are not coincidences but rather the result of systems and institutions that were constructed to elevate certain groups of people while oppressing other groups of people. I believe that to be morally wrong in every way.
Q: What was the moment you realized joining the SJCNL was a good move for you?
A: I realized that, I think it was in Dec of 2020, on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, when a large crowd of disabled and disabled people gathered on the steps of City Hall and demanded that the city revise a budget that would have reduced public transit in the city… and they met our demand. It worked! It made me and every other disabled person in that gathering feel seen and feel heard. I also realized that as a minority, we tend to think that the people who we have to win over are people in positions of power, but what I learned was, it is far more important to win the solidarity of the voter, not the politician. Because the voter will determine who holds those positions of power. It was pouring rain that evening and watching the Go Buses pull up and the wheelchairs roll out was incredible. It was dark outside, but the steps of City Hall were illuminated with lights from the media . I was gobsmacked. People were telling their personal stories in front of a mic and a camera. This was really happening! I was crying! Had it not been for SJC it would not have happened.
Q: Is there anything that we have not asked that you would like to tell us about?
A: Next steps in disability awareness could be the acknowledgement of Disability Pride month, which is in July of every year. I would like to see the month of July internationally. I would like to see our community elevated during disability pride month in particular. And I would like to see events that are accessible and public to increase the visibility and amplify the voices and experience of people who have disabilities in our province. Particularly for people who live on the intersections of race and disability and indigeneity in disability and poverty and disability.
Q: What makes this work worth it despite the challenges?
A: What makes it worth it , is that every step towards our goal is a step. Every statement that is made publicly by a person with a disability is another chink in the armour . Visibility matters, representations matters and being recognized as a member of a community matters.
Q. Is there anything that you are reading, watching or listening to that you would recommend to people for SJC learning and sharing?
A. I am reading two books right now. One book is called There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness by M. Leona Godin. It is a combination of memoir and the history and culture around blindness. It is written by a woman who experienced loss of her eyesight in her late 20s. It is on the New York Times Best Seller List. It gives so much insight into the invisible struggles of people who live with sight loss. We begin to understand why things are the way they are in the 21st Century, and we begin to understand how the bias that exists today comes from superstitions that formed during the Middle Ages. For example, the term ‘legally blind’ is a throwback to a time when people with disabilities had no other way to support themselves other than to literally beg for alms in public places. To earn the right to do that, people who had invisible disabilities, like blindness, had to appear before a magistrate and undergo certain tests that certified that the disability was valid. If they passed the test, they were declared to be legally entitled to charity and they were now ‘legally blind’. They would wear a licence on a string around their neck. So even though it is antiquated, this is a term that is still used by doctors, organizations and legalized forms.
The other book is called Ain't I a Woman? by bell hook. I got to know her name from my critical disability theory study group. It s a study of black feminism. Her language is very conversational and very easy to digest. I am having one ‘Eureka!’ movement after another as I read this book. I am also very drawn to black women and women of colour, and I am so inspired and informed by their activism and their advocacy. We owe them a debt of gratitude in helping to inform us of activism in disability justice.