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11.18.22

New initiative by and for people with arm prostheses

November 18th, 2022

More than 270,000 people around the world wear an arm prosthesis, over 30,000 people of whom are resident in the US; over 8,000 in the UK. There are countless reasons why people may have come to obtain a prosthesis, including illness, accident and congenital physical disability (dysmelia). Gina from Germany, Bebe from Italy and Cameron from the USA are three people who are experiencing life with a prosthesis. All three have gone through the process of arm amputation, but what also connects them is their passion for taking on new challenges and helping others. Together with Ottobock and other international bionic rock stars, they have launched a new initiative in which arm prosthesis wearers are using the hashtag #NeverStopReaching to share their personal experiences on social media and take their community with them on the journey.

Motivation and empowerment through social media

The idea behind the initiative was born at a workshop in Berlin back in spring 2022, whose participants were ten users representing seven different countries alongside marketing and product experts from Ottobock. They were asked to tackle several questions at the event, including what life with a prosthesis means, what day-to-day challenges prosthesis wearers face and what keeps them motivated. The discussion showed that life with a prosthesis is an ongoing journey for those who wear them.

”Getting a prosthesis fitted by a medical supply company is just the start. As the technology continues to evolve, the users have to adapt in line with it too. The key to tackling the experience is finding your own sources of motivation and having the courage to step up to new challenges again and again”, says Martin Wider, Vice President Global Marketing and Head of Customer Experience at Ottobock. ”This insight gave rise to #NeverStopReaching. In the work we are doing together through this social media initiative, we want to create more visibility for people with arm prostheses – and provide a way for them to network with one another at the same time.” Those experiencing life with a prosthesis often feel isolated and have little to no contact with others going through the same process.

Focus on user-generated content

#NeverStopReaching is all about how twelve users have come to embark on their particular journeys, what their opinions are and what ideas they have. They show how they deal with their disability and how they are able to rise above their situation, with innovative upper limb prosthetics providing them with help along the way. User-generated content forms the core of the campaign. Ottobock and the international influencers share image and video material on social media channels such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook in order to achieve the greatest possible organic reach. At the same time, Ottobock is launching its bionic life website about living with an arm prosthesis, which provides a hub where those with a prosthesis can share their stories. The campaign will start in mid-November in the core markets of Germany, the UK, the USA, Italy and France. Other countries will follow in the coming months.

The people behind the movement

Twelve international influencers, including Gina, Bebe and Cameron, are the force behind #NeverStopReaching and share their personal experiences with arm prostheses on social media.

After a motorcycle accident in 2019, Gina Rühl’s upper left arm had to be amputated. Just three years later, the Wuppertal native became the first prosthesis wearer to take part in the Miss Germany contest – and today, she is Vice-Miss Germany 2022 with over 442,000 followers on social media. Through her content, the “one-armed princess”, as she dubs herself, shows that an amputation doesn’t mean reaching the end of the road. #NeverStopReaching, she says, means that “you should never stop growing – and you should always ask yourself what you can achieve when you face hurdles in life“. (Instagram @gina.ruhl)

Bebe Vio is an Italian Paralympic gold medal winner – and the only wheelchair fencer in the world to compete without hands, forearms or legs. Her journey started at the age of eleven when she contracted meningitis, with such severe results that her lower legs and forearms had to be amputated on both sides of her body. The turn that her life took also led the para-athlete to become a strong advocate for early vaccination against meningitis. In addition, Bebe has forged a career as a writer and presenter who talks about courage, strength and determination: “If you want to do something, give it a shot – you should never hold back your desire to grow!” (Instagram @be_vio)

Cameron Massengale from South Carolina, USA, lost his right forearm in a work accident in 2014. Today, he works as a Sales Manager in Ottobock’s Upper Limb division – making him extremely well-versed in handling a whole range of hand prostheses. On Instagram, he shares tips for life with an arm prosthesis, showing which attachments work best for which everyday tasks, for instance. Cameron explains, “Everyone always thinks you’re automatically an expert, but the experience is actually about lifelong learning. Success is a journey. One example of what I do is use the rule of five attempts – in other words, I’ll try something five times before stopping to regroup.” (Instagram @cameronmass)

A worldwide network through Movao, the online community

The Movao online community also provides participants with the opportunity to start conversations with other prosthesis wearers, inspire one another and give one another support. It is the first international platform for amputees and their family members. In contrast to other social channels, Movao offers a closed, protected space for all users – a place in which amputees and their family members can join in both local and global discussions about the interests and challenges they share.

Movao is available in North America, Africa, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Belgium. It can be accessed via https://movao.community or downloaded as an app.

The bionic rock stars at a glance:

  • Gina Rühl, Germany: Vice-Miss Germany 2022
    @gina.ruhl (Followers: 133k on Instagram | 303k on TikTok | 6k on YouTube)

  • Priscille Deborah, France: artist
    @priscille.deborah (Followers: 3.9k on Instagram | 1.3k on Facebook)

  • Enya von Egmond, Netherlands: model, Paralympic snowboarder
    @bionic_pippi (Followers 37.4k on Instagram | 320k on TikTok)

  • Beatrice Maria Vio Grandis, Italy: aka Bebe Vio, Paralympic gold medal winner, author, presenter@bebe_vio (Followers: 1.3 million on Instagram | 645.7k on Facebook)

  • Davide Morana, Italy: para-athlete
    @davidebartolomorana (Followers: 207k on Instagram | 968.9k on TikTok | 22.3k on Facebook)

  • Maurizio Castelli, Italy: one-armed motorcycle racer @maurizio_cast7 (Followers: 7k on Instagram | 3.7k on TikTok | 1.9k on Facebook)

  • Johanna Hellsten, Sweden: journalist
    @bionic_jo (Followers: 1k on Instagram)

  • Kiersten Kelly, USA: singer, model, actress
    @kiersten__kelly (Followers: 4.5k on Instagram | 18.2k on TikTok | 6.2k on YouTube | 4.5k on Facebook)

  • Shaholly Ayers, USA: model, inclusion ambassador
    @shahol1 (Followers: 17.6k on Instagram | 20k on Facebook)

  • Cameron Massengale, USA: Ottobock Sales Manager
    @cameronmass (Followers 1.7k on Instagram)

  • Kayla Maria, USA: model, dancer
    @kaylamaria.g (Followers: 53.1k on Instagram | 143.7k on TikTok)

  • Sebastian Guadalupe Gallegos, USA: veteran, disability advocate
    @tejano_space_cowboy (Followers: 22.9k on Instagram | 102.5k on TikTok)

These seven influencers and five other arm prosthesis wearers are part of the Ottobock #NeverStopReaching campaign (from left to right: Bebe, Gina, Davide, Kiersten, Shaholly, Cameron and Sebastian).
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