Runner with bionic hand takes on London Marathon to tackle disability discrimination

leonard-cheshire-nickyA runner with the world’s most lifelike bionic hand is taking on the London Marathon to raise awareness of stigma and discrimination faced by disabled people.

Nicky Ashwell, whose prosthetic hand harnesses motors and microprocessors, is representing Leonard Cheshire Disability at the annual London race, her seventh marathon.

Born without a right hand, Nicky was fitted with the bionic technology by Bebionic last year, enabling her to carry out tasks with both hands for the first time.

Nicky said: “I want to raise awareness of the problems people with disabilities can face – not in coping with their disability, but with infrastructure restrictions and society’s prejudices.”

“I support Leonard Cheshire Disability because of their work to campaign for change in these areas.”

“I think people with disabilities are frequently underestimated, and this is apparent when it comes to sport. Fortunately I’ve dealt with a lot of non-judgemental people but I’ve still had many experiences where I’ve had to prove my ability when there is an expectation that I’m going to fail. Don’t think I can do a burpee [a four-step squat-thrust move that works out the entire body]? Sure I can.

“I think the 2012 Paralympics were fantastic for broadcasting the achievements of disabled people in the field of sport, but in my experience no-one (outside of my family) ever really encouraged me to explore my potential. I got a taste for running at 18 and through that gained confidence to explore other types of exercise.

“The London marathon is such a unique experience and I get to be a part of it. Having done a few marathons before, you’d think I’d have more confidence, but actually I’m nervous that something will go wrong and ruin what I hope will be an amazing day. But most of that can be managed by me if I just stay positive!”

Nicky, who aged 29 was approached on the street by a British manufacturer of prosthetic limbs and asked if she wanted to trial a new myoelectric hand, says the technology has given her more options in how she lives her life.

“I’ve always found a way to do something if I want to do it, but I guess what I never realised is how hard I was making somethings for myself.

“Imagine if you’ve spent your whole life walking backwards, you’ve learnt to do it well and you even quite enjoy it. Then suddenly you can walk forwards. It changes your perspective and you love this new way of moving, but now you can walk forwards AND backwards!”

“The marathon is the ultimate demonstration of what can be achieved if you put your mind to something. That is a message for anyone. I want to support Leonard Cheshire and their work to give disabled people opportunities that sometimes social misunderstanding restricts, and I want to change perspectives of what it means to be disabled.”

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s leading charity supporting disabled people.

Every year, we support thousands of people in the UK and around the world with physical and learning disabilities to fulfil their potential and live the lives they choose.

Nicky, who has been running for ten years, will be among 38,000 participants taking on one of the world’s most famous long distance races.

Originally from Guildford, Nicky is now based in London and works as a product manager in market analysis for creative industries.

About Leonard Cheshire Disability

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. Visit: or follow us on twitter: @leonardcheshire

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