A Cork teenager who was born with no arms or legs has been invited to give a keynote speech in the United Nations in New York next week.
Joanne O’Riordan, 15, is the only person with a disability to be invited to the exclusive global conference, entitled “Girls in Technology,” The event is hosted by the International Telecommunication Union ITU which is the UN agency for technology.
“I am very excited about it,” the teenager told the Irish Voice, during a break from class at Millstreet Community School on Tuesday.
“I have always wanted to go to New York,” she added.
O’Riordan, from Millstreet in Cork, is one of seven known people in the world to suffer from Total Amelia, characterized by the absence of all four limbs.
Last year the teenager’s vivacious personality led Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny to make a u-turn on budget cuts to disability payments, after pre-election footage of Kenny was released in which he promised Joanne that the disability allowance would remain intact.
After she appeared on the popular Irish talk show The Late Late Show last December, the teenager was asked to join the high level panel of 10 women, who will discuss closing the gender gap in technology.
The high school student will speak about how technology has helped her overcome the challenges of living with a rare genetic disorder.
“I am going to talk about how technology has given me a better education,” she told the Irish Voice.
“When I was younger I was able to write but as the workload increased in school, we asked the publishers to put the books on my laptop.
“They only asked the most important women in the world, so it’s quite an honor.”
Joanne, her bother Steven, 28, and her parents Ann and Joe will travel to New York next Monday for a week. As well as achieving a lifelong dream of coming to America, Joanne will also celebrate her 16th birthday in New York next Tuesday.
“I think I am going to the Hard Rock Café,” she said.
“I have a fascination with cities. You can never really get bored. You get to live in apartments and you can walk across the hall to your friends.”
In addition to her trip, the Irish Film Board has given the go ahead for a documentary based on Joanne’s extraordinary life story.
“I am very excited about it,” she said.
Directed by Joanne’s brother Steven O’Riordan, No Limbs, No Limits not only hopes to inspire, but also have a lasting effect on how people perceive those with disabilities.
“My story is kind of out there anyway,” she reflected. “But people don’t really know the real me and how I live a normal life.”
Joanne O'Riordan Chats About Having Total Amelia Syndrome on the Late Late Show: