Whanganui disability advocate Robert Martin can now add "local hero" to his long list of achievements.
Mr Martin is one of three finalists in the Local Hero category of the New Zealander of the Year awards. He and wife Lynda will travel to Auckland for the awards ceremony of February 22, along with friend Alison Campbell, who nominated Mr Martin for the award.
Mr Martin was one of six Whanganui people who received a Local Hero award in the Manawatu region in November 2016. He was then selected to be one of 10 finalists, then chosen to be in the top three.
"When I heard about it I nearly fell of my chair, I was very surprised," he said.
Mr Martin was born in Whanganui in 1957 and diagnosed with brain damage after a difficult birth. His parents were advised to send him to live at the Kimberley Hospital and Training Centre in Levin, where he would spend many years.
Despite the frustrations of institutional life, school introduced him to sport. He went on to captain the New Zealand football team at the Special Olympics in 1991, and still referees football and coaches cricket.
A long-time advocate for people with disabilities, Mr Martin's book, Becoming a Person, was launched in 2015.
Last year Mr Martin was elected to the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - the first person with a learning disability to stand for and be elected to the UN committee.
Mr Martin's term on the committee began in January and next month he will travel to Geneva to attend his first meeting.
In 2008 Mr Martin received became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
He's delighted to be a Local Hero - but takes it all in his stride.
"It's really nice to recognised, but for me it's all about people with disabilities being able to contribute and be part of society.
"I want to make a road for the people who come after me, to make their lives easier," he said.