When Anna Landre (SFS ’21) began her first full-time, paid summer internship after her first year at Georgetown University, she was expecting a fun and educational summer experience. Instead, she came close to losing the disability services she relied on to live on her own.
In 2018, Landre received Medicaid insurance through her health care provider in her home state of New Jersey. The state, however, eventually revoked her access to Personal Care Aide services, which provided the funds and support Landre required to live independently while away from home.
Landre was not the only New Jersey resident suffering from these restrictions, so she decided the only solution to the state’s unjust disability regulations was to pressure lawmakers into making a change, she said.
“I rallied disabled New Jerseyans having the same problem, I contacted local reporters, and I worked with my local representatives. Eventually, the State resolved my individual situation, but I demanded they do so for everyone else, too,” Landre wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In November, Landre was named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 for her advocacy and legislative work on disability rights. The annual 21 Under 21 list recognizes girls who have worked against the odds to innovate, create, connect and inspire, according to Teen Vogue.
Alongside advocates for police reform, COVID-19 therapies and mental health, Landre was acclaimed for her commitment and work to change the physical, legal and social barriers disabled people often face.
“Many of these spaces — whether it’s college, the workplace or something else — are not built for us,” Landre said in an interview with Teen Vogue. “That means many of us have to forge our own paths and push past a lot of ‘nos’ along the way. It’s frustrating, but this is the work that needs to get done in order to pave the way for people who come after us. There’s still much more work to be done.”
In February 2020, Landre’s hard work came to fruition when New Jersey state senators introduced a package of legislation, including five bills Landre developed, to support disabled students who receive Medicaid support to help with their cost of independent living. If passed, the legislation will provide full state Medicaid health coverage to disabled individuals regardless of whether their workplace earnings qualify them for Medicaid programs. The bill, introduced in January 2020, has yet to be passed and is pending further action in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, one of the New Jersey Senate’s subcommittees. It is included as part of the 2020-21 legislative session’s agenda.
Medicaid currently covers up to 40 hours of personal care assistance a week for disabled people, a program that benefits disabled individuals who are able to live at home with family support more than students who need to live independently, according to a press release from New Jersey state Senator Vin Gopal, a representative involved in the legislation to better serve disabled New Jersey residents.
Landre has taken her activism beyond her community in New Jersey, too. She currently serves as an advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 2E in Washington, D.C., as well as co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Youth Disability Council. She is also working with the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a disability-led nonprofit that supports individuals before and after natural disasters or other emergencies, on creating disability-inclusive pandemic relief policies.
Landre is pleased her work has been recognized by Teen Vogue and hopes it will catalyze greater exposure for disability activists, she wrote.
“It’s such an honor to be featured among so many young women and femmes doing important work to break down barriers and fight for our communities,” Landre wrote. “Teen Vogue has had some awesome coverage of disability issues over the last several years, and I hope this makes it even better. I’d love to see multiple disability activists in the next iteration of 21 Under 21.”
At Georgetown, Landre is a founding member of the Georgetown Disability Alliance, a campus group founded in 2019 that aims to help disabled students socialize, learn and support one another.
Kiki Schmalfuss (NHS ’22), a GDA board member, said Landre has played a crucial role in the development of the organization.
“Anna kind of does everything. She knows everything; she’s there to help you with anything. and as the oldest board member we have right now, she’s been really integral in guiding us and advising us,” Schmalfuss said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
Landre’s recognition in Teen Vogue represents an important moment for the disabled community both at Georgetown and beyond, according to Angelene Leija (COL ’23), a GDA board member.
“We’re all really proud of her. I’m not surprised because she’s really inspirational, and she’s worked really hard for not only herself, but for each member of the club and the community in general,” Leija said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “She is working for future generations of college students at Georgetown because this type of work is not just for today’s students, but also for future students.”
As a senior at Georgetown, Landre is continuing her work on a number of research and advocacy projects this year before attending graduate school, where she will be one of 62 recipients of the Truman Scholarship, a graduate school fund for students dedicated to a life of public service.
“I’m working on several exciting research projects on the creation and implementation of disability policies across the globe. I’m writing an Honors Thesis on the implementation of disability laws in Brazil and writing an academic article on the rise of disability policies in Latin America,” Landre wrote.
Progress for disability rights requires breaking the stigmas that surround disability, Landre wrote.
“We need to make people realize that disability is a universal experience. Almost everyone will be at least temporarily disabled for at least some time in their life, and 15-20% of people across the globe are estimated to be disabled,” Landre wrote. “We also need to break down the myth that disability is inherently a bad, tragic, and limiting way to live. Most people with disabilities face far more challenges from discrimination and societal barriers than our own bodies.”