The winner of the supreme honour at the annual Attitude Awards is on a crusade to help other non-verbal New Zealanders find their voice - complete with a Kiwi accent.
Aucklander Geneva Hakaraia-Tino took out the top prize in last night's awards at Auckland's ANZ Viaduct Events Centre, as well as winning the Spirit of Attitude award.
Living with cerebral palsy, the 24-year-old gets around in a wheelchair and communicates through a computerised device.
Hakaraia-Tino mentors at TalkLink, a New Zealand-based company that helps connect people with communication difficulties to assistive technology.
She is working with the company to equip the devices with a Kiwi accent and wants to add Te Reo to the technology so she and others can be more immersed in their culture.
Attitude Live general manager Dan Buckingham said Hakaraia-Tino was determined to push the boat out for other people living with communication difficulties.
"She's a young Maori woman who's passionate about the Maori language.
"She's also very passionate about how much she dislikes Australian accents," Buckingham said.
Buckingham said Hakaraia-Tino's mission to add a Kiwi accent to the devices was well underway, but the mission to add Te Reo to the devices would likely take a further two or three years.
The Aucklander was the judge's pick for the supreme award because of her drive to change people's views on what is achievable for people living with disabilities, he said.
"The biggest thing was that she raises the expectation of other people living with disabilities for how things should be for them.
"She's pushing things forward."
Alongside her mentoring at TalkLink and at school camps, Hakaraia-Tino was also pursuing a career in the media industry.
She had just wrapped up a Bachelor of Communications Studies and was continuing to study Te Reo Maori on the side.
Award judge Tanya Black said Hakaraia-Tino constantly defied the expectations of what someone with her level of disability could achieve.
"Despite the barriers placed in her way she retains a charm and steely determination to make the world a better place, not just for herself but those coming behind her."