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16-Year-Old Tells UN: 'No Limbs, No Limits'
A 16-year-old Irish student delivered the keynote address at a UN global conference on technology in Manhattan yesterday on ‘technology as empowerment’. Joanne O’Riordan, who was born without limbs, challenged those in the field to come up with new technology to make a more independent life a reality for her. The upbeat and energetic teen from Millstreet in Cork also pointed out the difference that technology has made in her life so far.
Joanne began by telling those at the conference how much technology has enabled her to excel in all aspects of her life.
As you can see I was born without my limbs but my motto in life is, No Limbs No Limits. The disability I have is known as Total Amelia and it is one of the rarest conditions known to us…
I use technology in all aspects of my life, be it at home, in school or through the wider medium of interacting with others…Today I can type 36 words a minute and for someone with no limbs, I think that’s an incredible achievement in itself…
Technology has opened up a world of possibilities, through which I have excelled in both my education and social environment around me…
From The Journal
The event was hosted by the International Telecommunication Union ITU which is the UN agency for technology. In the video below taken at the Girls in ICT conference, O’Riordan talks about her experience at the event:
O’Riordan also challenged the tech community to “build a robot” that would allow her and others in similar situations to achieve full independence. The full text of Joanne’s speech can be found here.
I’m asking the Girls in Technology who are here today and who are the leading women within their field to start doing what I do, in my life, ‘Think outside the box’…
It is my wish and it’s my challenge to you and to others out there to build me a robot…
The main thing the robot would be doing is picking up the objects I drop such as a pen, knife, fork, and or my phone. This robot would become my hands and legs. So for example, if I was in the sitting room and I needed something from the kitchen, I would love for that robot to get me what I needed…
I want to live an independent life just like you. I don’t want to live in the shadow of others because I want to make my own journey in life and I know if I’m given that chance I can and will succeed. I know that there must be someone out there in the world who can do something like this to make life much easier. It would not just help me, but indeed others who are in similar situations. Life is about living and let’s face it Ladies, technology is not just a way of life, it’s a way of living! And just because I have no limbs does not mean I will be limited. And neither should you!
From The Journal
Irish broadcaster RTÉ caught up with Joanne in New York City ahead of the speech. In the video below she told viewers, “I hope everyone recognizes me as a person that has done things rather than the girl with no arms and no legs… I’d prefer they be like ‘Oh look there’s Joanne she addressed the UN and represented Ireland’”:
O’Riordan was interviewed on the Late Late Show in December 2011 and talked about living with Total Amelia Syndrome. Her upbeat attitude shines through in this short segment:
A new documentary about Joanne’s life, including her speech at the Girls in Technology conference, also began filming this week. The film, directed by Joanne’s brother Steven O’Riordan recently received funding from the Irish Film Board. More information on the documentary can be found on the official website.