Sir Robert Martin says being named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in the list of 2020 New Year Honours means a lot to him.
The Whanganui People First advocate has been honoured for services to people with disabilities.
"It means that people with learning disability can rise above the injustices that were put upon us and be real citizens of our country," he said.
"I couldn't believe it, at first, when I heard.
"These kinds of things don't happen for people with learning disability, they have happened for other people with disabilities, but not for us."
Martin has been involved with the self-advocacy movement for people with learning disabilities and has represented their rights and interests at a national and international level for more than 30 years.
Born in Wellington in 1957, Martin was diagnosed with brain damage after a difficult forceps delivery and his parents were advised to send him to live at Kimberley Hospital and Training Centre in Levin.
He would spend 15 years living in institutions where he says he suffered abuse and witnessed the abuse of others in state care.
Martin was also aware that he missed out on many things other children his age were experiencing.
"I didn't get the opportunity to make life-long friends at school and the music.
"I missed all that popular music that other people my age got to listen to."
He has devoted his adult years to raising awareness and improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
Martin is currently serving a four-year term as an independent expert on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Tariana Turia, as Minister for Disability Issues, recommended him for the post and travelled to New York with him to support the nomination in 2014.
He became the first person with a learning disability to be elected on to a UN Human Rights Treaty in 2017.
And in 2018, he was the first person with a learning disability to chair a meeting within a UN session.
Martin plans to seek re-election to the role in 2020.
"Yes I am going for another four years and the election is in June 2020 in New York," he said.
"Some of my highlights have been chairing meetings and being co-rapporteur for some of the countries that have come before the Committee.
"I also enjoyed being on a joint working group of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Committee on the Rights of the Child."
Martin said there have been recent inclusion milestones that he is pleased about.
"When the Committee talks about issues to do with communication, they now also bring up Easy Read as well as Sign Language and Braille.
"Easy Read is a way of writing information that uses easy language and pictures and I have spoken up about it a lot during my time on the Committee.
"No one should be left behind."
Despite the many positive changes Martin has seen, he believes there is still a long way to go.
"Many disabled people still don't get access to justice or a choice of where and with whom they want to live.
"There are still institutions all around the world and millions of people are locked away when they haven't committed a crime, just based on their disability.
"We don't treat anyone else like that so why do we still do it to people with disabilities."
Martin is a Life Member of People First New Zealand, which he helped found in the 1980s, and has held a number of leadership roles within the organisation.
He has been a member of the National Assembly of People with Disabilities, and chair of the Frozen Funds Committee (the Frozen Funds Charitable Trust provides grants for projects run by, and for, people who use mental health or intellectual disability services).
He has been the People First representative for the Ministry of Health Consumer Consortium. He is often a keynote speaker at annual Leadership Forums run by People First New Zealand around the country.
At home, he was a member of the Wanganui Regional Disability Strategy Reference Group from 2010 to 2011.
Martin held roles within Inclusion International and was National Self Advocacy Advisor and Trainer for IHC New Zealand between 1991 and 2010.
In 2014, he published his biographical book Becoming a Person.
Written by John McRae it describes Martin's transition from life in New Zealand institutions to becoming an international advocate for people with disabilities.
Martin was also recognised in the 2008 New Year Honours awards when he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).
When he is not busy with his advocacy work, Robert Martin likes to live quietly in Whanganui, spending time with his wife Lynda and their cherished friends.