ROBBIE Francis is not your average 25-year-old.
She has been to India to help children with disabilities, completed a whirlwind internship at Disability Rights International in Mexico, and spent a year in Israel studying international conflict resolution.
And she has done it all with a prosthetic leg.
The Mt Eden woman was born with phocomelia – an extremely rare condition that meant she was born without most of her left leg and had several bones missing in her right.
She learnt to walk on a prosthesis, affectionately known as Lucy, when she was a toddler.
‘‘It’s difficult to say ‘prosthetic’ at that age, so it was just ‘ Lucy left leg’. It’s funny because I can’t live without her but I’ve definitely had my moments of despising her.’’
It wasn’t until she had an aboveknee amputation at age 12 that she started to feel self-conscious.
She tried to cover up her plastic leg for years before deciding to embrace it and painted it fluorescent pink.
‘‘For a time I didn’t want to be known as the girl with a plastic leg, which is the name I’ve acquired. It’s just what happens when people want to put you in a box.
‘‘Once I flaunted it, amazing how no-one cared.’’
She is now known for painting decorations and ‘‘tattoos’’ on the prosthetic. She is also a musician and sews in her spare time.
Her right leg is still affected by the condition and may have to be amputated one day – a possibility that doesn’t phase her.
‘‘It’s not a big deal to me. You don’t need legs to make a difference in the world. Regardless of whether I have one or none I can achieve the things I want to.
‘‘And with two artificial legs I can choose what height I want to be, or what shoe size. It has its benefits.’’
Francis won the Youth Attitude it was actually Award in 2009 and went on to take the Attitude ACC Supreme Award the same year.
She now works at Attitude Pictures and says more people should nominate others for the awards.
‘‘It changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly.
‘‘It gave me a platform to launch into the world as a disability advocate. I started to feel this responsibility which led me to my career in disability and human rights.’’
The 2014 Attitude Awards will be presented on World Disability Day, December 3, and nominations close on July 10. A new feature is a Junior Award for a person under 15.
Awards trustee Dan Buckingham says the event is about changing mindsets as well as celebrating achievements.
‘‘We want kids to be able to see other kids doing these great things. There was a gap there and now there’s a chance for young people to be recognised.’’
Speaking up: Robbie Francis says she doesn’t need legs to make a difference.
Baby steps: The first prosthetic Robbie Francis used was so tiny it didn’t have toes.