Joanne O’ Riordan

If Joanne O Riordan was denied an education like the 130 million girls worldwide today, then Ireland wouldn't have someone fighting to make our country more accessible for people with disabilities.


Joanne O’ Riordan

Activist and Criminology Student

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to be born without limbs, but this is the reality that student and activist Joanne O’Riordan faces every single day. Joanne was born with a rare condition known as Total Amelia, affecting only six other people in the world. However, Joanne has never let this limit her in fact her motto is “no limbs, no limits”.

In 2011, Joanne stood out as an activist when she openly challenged the government on their cut to funding for people with disabilities, which was subsequently reversed. Since then she has gone on to address the UN in New York, given a TED Talk and been named one of the Junior Chamber International Ten Outstanding Young People of the Year.

But imagine if Joanne was denied an education like the 130 million girls worldwide are today.

Imagine if not only her disability, but also her gender made her invisible.

Children with disabilities are less likely to start school and if they do, they are unlikely to transition to secondary school. Access to school for children with disabilities is often limited by a lack of understanding about their needs, and a lack of trained teachers, classroom support learning resources and facilities.

According to the World Report on Disability approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability, with at least 1 in 10 being children and 80% living in developing countries.

On 2nd February, in Dakar Senegal, Ireland will have the opportunity, along with other wealthy nations, philanthropies and corporations, to pledge funds to the Global Partnership for Education, which supports education for the poorest and most marginalised.

If Ireland were to step up its contribution to this fund, it would send a message to the other world leaders of Ireland’s continued commitment to education across the world. It could inspire others to do likewise.