Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

The Limbless Girl with Big Ambition
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The Limbless Girl with Big Ambition

Joanne O’Riordan was born with no limbs, but has never let this hold her back – she has achieved so much.

Seventeen years ago her mother Anne O’Riordan was reeling from the shock of giving birth to a little girl with the extremely rare condition of Total Amelia – the baby had no arms or legs. Joanne is one of only seven people in the world with this condition. It is also known as Tetra-amelia, and is a congenital disorder caused by a genetic mutations.

“I remember looking down at her and thinking: ‘What will she ever do?’ “ recalls Anne, from County Cork, in the South of Ireland. Well, it turns out that her little girl Joanne has done amazingly well after all.

Joanne has worked out her own way of doing most things. She attends school, can feed herself, can type 60 words per minute and like most teenagers, is constantly texting her friends. She types with a pen held between her teeth and texts super-fast using her upper lip. She can get herself about everywhere in her specially adapted wheelchair (the picture here shows her at a football match in Cork).

Joanne clearly has an indomitable spirit. She has given a speech on technology and disability at the the United Nations HQ in New York at the age of only 16 , where she received a standing ovation for a speech on the subject of “Girls in Technology”. She has also trained with the British Olympic bobsleigh team. She plans to become a journalist or a politician, which no doubt she would excel at, given that she is a keen campaigner for disability rights. She even managed to single-handed force the Irish Prime Minister to cancel plans to cut the disability allowance for young people! She has been named Cork Person of the Month and Young Person of the Year.

This incredible young woman has also recently been the subject of a documentary, My Life, on British TV. Joanne says:

“I have always been encouraged to be independent and I never give up…I tried prosthetic arms and legs but I never got on with them. I’ve always made the most of what I have got , or what I like to call my little arm.” (She has a tiny undeveloped arm on the left side of her body). She credits her parents for giving her her independence and confidence because they have always treated her equally, and encouraged her to do things for herself as much as possible.

She is amazingly positive about her disability. “Being born this way does have its advantages,”she reveals. “I’ve met loads of celebrities. I give them the sob story and it works! My motto is, if you want something, you have got to go out and get it. Think positive because you’ll get a lot more out of life than if you just mope around.”

So absolutely true, and an inspiration to us all with our own problems.

Hope you got something from this blog, and I appreciate your votes and comments.


Sources:, 11 December 2011

Picture courtesy of

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