Soap Box Victor: A Disability Radio Pioneer

Victor, with white hair and a glorious white beard, sits at a desk in a radio studio, helping produce a radio show

Victor Schwartzman behind the scenes in studio (Photo: Cathy Browne)

By Spencer van Vloten

BC Disability

August 18th, 2021

Victor Schwartzman's spent years as host and producer for Soap Box Radio, now called Access Radio, a community radio program which amplifies the voices of persons with disabilities.

We talked with Victor about his start in radio, his most memorable guests, and the problems he has with BC today.


How did you get involved in covering disability issues on the radio?

Victor: I grew up in Brooklyn, worked in Manitoba for several years, and then moved to BC when I retired. At that time I started writing columns for Accessible Media about how the Accessible Ontario Act was going, and through this it was suggested to me that I join the steering group for Barrier-Free BC.

When I joined the group, I tried to think of what I could offer. Now, that wasn't much, but due to my involvement with Vancouver Co-op Radio (CFRO 100.5FM), producing World Poetry Cafe, something I did think I could offer was a spot on radio for people with disabilities to have their voices heard.

At first the idea was to create a new disability-themed show, but then Soap Box Radio, which was already running, needed a new host, so I took the slot and things started moving fast. I’d planned for the show to run a few times a month, but soon enough it was on every week.

You’ve said that you weren’t the best choice for host

Victor: I certainly wasn’t the best choice, but there was no one else at the time. I steadily began hunting for co-hosts, and I found Cathy Browne and she was a great; so good that she ended up working at CBC and is now doing amazing there.

Amy Amantea’s also hosting now, under the name Access Radio, and she's one of the very best. She’s great at organizing guests, and is also a talented actress and comedian.

Star hosts Cathy Browne (left; photo: Cathy Browne) and Amy Amantea (right; photo: Accessible Media)

At this point, 7-8 years on from when I first started with Soap Box Radio, I focus on editing and producing, but occasionally host.

Who are some of the most memorable guests you’ve had on?

Victor: Pat Kelln was one of the most memorable and most important. She was a manager of the Royal Bank and a leading banker for years. Then one day, just like that, she out walking and fell. She injured a nerve in her leg and developed some other conditions which left her in a wheelchair in chronic pain.