In November 2020, while standing on Broadway Market I was caught in the crossfire between rival gangs and shot through the neck which shattered my spine and left me with a C4 Spinal Cord Injury. This has meant I am paralysed from the chest down with little arm movement and no hand dexterity. I spent 1½ months at the Royal London and was then moved to the London Spinal Injury Centre in Stanmore where I started my rehabilitation and met the team at Aspire.

Due to my limited arm movement and lack of hand function I was really struggling to use my phone, let alone a computer, which was particularly difficult as it was during Covid when friends and family were not allowed to visit and so I was so reliant on the nurses and healthcare assistants to do simple tasks like press a button.

I was then introduced to Andrew, Aspire’s Assistive Technology Manager, who helped me try out different computer mice and various types of equipment so I could decide which I was most comfortable with.  I now use a Head Mouse, a Micro Light Switch and Dragon speech recognition software as well as Apple’s voice dictation iPhone technology.

All of these tools helped me connect with my family whilst I was in hospital and started me on the road to greater independence.

I was discharged at the end of April 2021 and was able to borrow a Head Mouse for a while before I could get one of my own, which I did thanks to a grant from the Frenkel Topping Foundation. 

This has completely changed the way I live and given me independence and autonomy over my life. Not only do I use this technology daily to complete simple tasks, like sending emails, shopping and social media but I have gone back to work part-time as an e-commerce website analyst in the fashion retail industry. None of this would have been possible without Andrew’s help!

A huge part of my rehabilitation and life is art. This started at Stanmore, using hand splints where I found my line again and these tools enabled me to make marks and experiment. I have now expanded on using hand splints, in combination with my iMouse and graphics tablet to create new works of art. This practice has not only helped to improve the limited movement in my arms, building strength and articulation, but more importantly, it’s become a form of personal expression that has helped me to reconnect to my identity.

Artwork by Natalie

I am now delighted to have had my first debut exhibition, which ran from 28th September to 3rd October 2023, at the Nunnery Gallery in East London. My work embodies themes of control, restriction, growth, and personal narrative as I explore my relationship to identity and disability through paint, fabric, sculpture, film, and light, using technology to assist me in creating work.

   Artwork by Natalie Artwork by Natalie

There is a serious lack of representation of disabled people in the arts, from poor accessibility through to institutional ableism. I am strident in my commitment to raise public awareness about paralysis, to platform my own experiences of living with a disability, to share grief, loss, resilience and hope and give insight into struggles of independence in today’s inaccessible world.

Follow Natalie's journey on Instagram @sneaky_biggers.

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