The ominous theme music of Carte Blanche on a Sunday usually has a Pavlovian effect on South Africans. The weekend’s festivities are a distant memory and the “work mode” is triggered for the week ahead! Viewers were pleasantly surprised last night when we weren’t offered the usual line-up of corruption and crime. Instead, we watched the inspiring documentary “No Limbs No Limits” about Joanne O’Riordan, a young Irish woman born without arms and legs. When #NoLimbsNoLimits started trending on Twitter, I think the show’s producers might have realised that South Africans found it refreshing to hear a positive story for a change (and better yet, the following day was a public holiday!).
I had never heard of Joanne before and her story reminded me much of my own. Like Joanne, I was fortunate to have parents who chose to look beyond my disability, who did not listen to negative medical opinions. I was shocked to hear that Joanne’s doctor had told her parents that much like a doll who has lost its arms and legs, they could discard her if they grew tired of her! Like Joanne, I also had siblings who had a significant impact on my social integration (although my brother is yet to film a documentary on me – he’ll happily do my taxes!). Like Joanne, I was fortunate to be included in mainstream schooling, knowing that a good education was key to opportunities for a person with a physical disability.
Unlike Joanne (with her being half my age!), I only experienced the impact of technology when I started university. As @Chris2Brooks said on Twitter, “Technology is so crucial in giving people with disabilities independence.” Unfortunately many South Africans living with disabilities don’t have access to resources and technology, limiting their independence and mobility and creating barriers to their education and employment. I hope that Joanne’s story inspired many to change their perceptions of ability. We need more disability advocates like her!
I am in awe of Joanne for being the articulate, humorous and driven woman she is at only 18. Her story encapsulates the importance of family, inclusive education and the support of a community. I look forward to seeing Joanne’s robot in action – I’ll definitely be next in line!