A businessman who helped a paralysed woman complete the London marathon has been crowned disabled entrepreneur of the year by easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
Hull-based David Hawkins, who is paraplegic, won the award for his work with Cyclone Technologies, which supplies wheelchairs and fitness equipment to disabled people in the UK and Ireland, importing products from the USA, Europe and Israel.
Hawkins' products include bespoke, lightweight wheelchairs, accessible gym equipment, Functional Electrical Stimulation equipment (designed for people with spinal injuries or neuromuscular conditions) and ReWalk, mobility devices for people with severe walking impairments.
The ReWalk suit was used by Claire Lomas, a London marathon runner who was paralysed in a horse riding accident five years ago, helping her to move her knees and hips to walk at the flick of a button through a computer-based control system and motion sensors.
In their head office in rural East Yorkshire, an area of high unemployment, Hawkins and business partner Stuart Dunne employ only local workers. Their sales team is made up solely of wheelchair users covering the whole of the UK and Ireland.
The award, now in its sixth year, recognises the unique achievements of disabled entrepreneurs and offers a £50,000 cash prize to the winner. It's run in association with the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.
In a press statement, Hawkins said: "I am thrilled to have won this award. It means so much to me and will make the world of difference in my plans to grow my business.
“One advantage of running a business aimed at other disabled people is that I have found I can empathise with my customers. I am at an advantage when I am choosing products and demonstrating their benefits to potential customers because we have faced similar hurdles.
"Technology is the new frontier in the disabled market and there are a whole range of new products for different needs, from systems that can mechanically make a paralysed person walk, to innovations that can electronically trigger muscles."
Sir Stelios said he was impressed by Hawkins's business, drive and enthusiasm. "I am passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship, and the previous winners of this award offer proof that there are many highly talented disabled entrepreneurs out there," he added.