Iran Woman with No Arms Helps others to Live with Disability

Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh was born without arms, but that hasn’t stopped her from excelling in many activities, ranging from painting to table tennis.

Now 52 years old, the retired Iranian teacher has dedicated herself to helping others with similar disabilities live full and satisfying lives.

Her story is one of personal triumph and indomitable spirit.

“Each body might have some limitations and deficiencies. But if you have a pure, elevated soul I think the body won’t matter,” she said.

After receiving her primary education at a special school for disabled children, Etezadossaltaneh moved into the mainstream Iranian education system and eventually earned a degree in psychology.

Now she works with young people with similar disabilities. Among her students is 9-year-old Roohollah Jafar, who lost his hands in an accident and is now learning from Etezadossaltaneh to paint and do calligraphy using his feet.

At the start of their lesson, Etezadossaltaneh skillfully massages the boy’s feet with her own feet and guides him on how to hold and control a pen between his toes.

Etezadossaltaneh’s feet have become dexterous enough to hold a pingpong paddle or a paint brush. She has staged multiple exhibitions and supplements her retirement pension by selling some of her artwork.

“She works so easily that I’ve totally forgotten she paints with her feet,” said her painting instructor, Parisa Samavatian. Etezadossaltaneh’s skill at table tennis has led to her being featured in public exhibition matches. But she insists that she wants to be more than just a symbolic figure of inspiration. “I want to play seriously and get a name,” she said. “I want to represent my country in competitions overseas.”

In this picture taken on Saturday, January 31, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, center, talks on her mobile phone, held with her foot, during a meeting at her friend's home in Tehran, Iran. Now 52 years old, the retired Iranian teacher who was born without arms has dedicated herself to helping others with similar disabilities live full and satisfying lives. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Sunday, January 18, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, right, who was born without arms, plays ping pong using her toes to hold the paddle in a sport club in Tehran, Iran. Etezadossaltaneh's skill at ping pong has led to her being featured in public exhibition matches. But she insists that she wants to be more than just a symbolic figure of inspiration. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Sunday, January 18, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh plays ping pong using her foot to hold the paddle in a sport club in Tehran, Iran. “I want to play seriously and get a name”, she said. “I want to represent my country in competitions overseas”. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh poses for a photograph at her home in Tehran, Iran. Etezadossaltaneh was born without arms. But that hasn't stopped her from excelling in activities ranging from painting to ping pong. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Thursday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh uses her feet to pour tea at her home, in Tehran, Iran. Etezadossaltaneh was born without arms. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, left, who was born without arms, paints as her teacher Parisa Samavatian observes, at her home in Tehran, Iran. “She works so easily that I've totally forgotten she paints with her feet”, said Samavatian. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, center, who was born without arms, writes with her feet during an English language class, in Tehran, Iran. Now 52 years old, the retired Iranian teacher has dedicated herself to helping others with similar disabilities live full and satisfying lives. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, center, pays for fruit by using her foot to give the cashier money in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Thursday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh works on her laptop at her home, in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Thursday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, who was born without arms, waters her garden by holding the hose with her foot in Tehran, Iran. “Each body might have some limitations and deficiencies. But if you have a pure, elevated soul I think the body won't matter”, she said. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Thursday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh ladles soup into a bowl for lunch at her home, in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on January 21, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, right, who was born without arms, teaches 9-year old Afghan boy Roohollah Jafar, how to use his feet during a lesson at her home, in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, who was born without arms, teaches painting to 12-year old Sara Sahraei, who is disabled, at her home, in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh, right, teaches calligraphy to 9-year old Afghan boy Roohollah Jafar, at her home, in Tehran, Iran. The boy lost his hands in an accident and is now learning from Etezadossaltaneh to paint and do calligraphy using his feet. At the start of their lesson, Etezadossaltaneh skillfully massages the boy's feet with her own feet and guides him on how to hold and control a pen. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

In this picture taken on Thursday, January 28, 2015, Zohreh Etezadossaltaneh uses her foot to help her mother to drink water at their home, in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)