Updated: Aug 21, 2021
CBC's Cathy Browne has been a leader in covering disability issues (Photo: Cathy Browne)
By Spencer van Vloten
June 9th, 2021
Creator of the award-winning Access Denied CBC series, Cathy Browne has put a mainstream spotlight on some of BC's most overlooked disability and public health issues.
Spencer van Vloten talked with Cathy about her start in journalism, and some of the people and stories that made the biggest impact on her.
Spencer: How did you get started in journalism?
Cathy: My history in journalism is tiny! Up to September 2019, I’d never done anything like this.
I joined the CAPE program at CBC, which provides paid experiences for people with disabilities across the country. And before 12 weeks ended, they’d said they wanted to keep me.
So at 65 I got the job I always wanted, and it’s been the best time.
Spencer: You were a photographer before as well
Cathy: Photography was something I got seriously into in early 2000s.
During that time, I had the opportunity to go to Japan for work. I didn’t want to shoot the typical tourist stuff, so I decided to shoot a story out of it, and became very conscious of telling stories in a different way.
It became a real comfort for me to focus on the art more too when my husband died in 2011.
I also had the chance to teach photography to elementary school students for 8 weeks. 45 years ago I'd been told I couldn’t get a teaching degree, because I wouldn’t be able to teach ‘normal’ students, yet here I was, teaching 45 years later.
It was a lesson: don’t give up, it will happen.
Cathy's skills include photography, performing, and advocacy (Photos:Cathy Browne)
Spencer: What do you consider the most important piece you’ve done?
Cathy: My Access Denied series is all about amplifying voices, and 2 parts stand out.
The one that started it off was about COVID restrictions which prevented hospitalized persons with disabilities from seeing loved ones. I covered one the tragedies that resulted from this, when a non-verbal woman, Ariis Knight, died alone in hospital.