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FEATURE


Joanne Smith


By Jeff Tiessen


“IT’S NOT THE LIFE YOU CHOOSE... IT’S THE LIFE YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE.”


For Canadians coast to coast, Joanne Smith is inextricably linked to the lifestyle she por- trays on TV. To her viewers, she exudes everything that is right about life with a disability. She’s active and adventurous. She’s confident and courageous. And she’s not acting.


For 10 years, ending in 2007, Smith hosted and produced the popular CBC television program Moving On. The Gemini Award-winning series was the only network television program of its kind in North Ameri- ca. A lifestyle show with a focus on empowering people with disabilities, Smith and her guests explored


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social issues and solutions, discov- ered new adventures, and promoted positive attitudes. “It is extremely important to


have a show specifically targeting a population that is grossly under- served and underrepresented in the television landscape,” she explains. But Smith wants to be seen as more than just the woman on television in the wheelchair. Off-set, she is as inimitable as the productions she hosts. A former model (complete with wheelchair) she broke through some of the most mountainous of barriers. There was no other network television show in North America featuring a host who used a wheel- chair full-time.


Smith sustained a spinal cord


injury in a car accident during her freshman year at university. She was 19. What followed was 18 months at a rehabilitation facility learning how to live life in a new way. It was there that her interest in broadcast- ing and journalism was honed by disability-related issues. Yet, still unsure about the execution of her aspirations and her new reality she left for England to live with relatives for a short while, and collect her- self. One of her cousins owned a television production company and regularly invited her with him on shoots. Smith loved it. “That’s when it all came together for me,” she enthuses. “I realized I could easily


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