Fran O'Connor

Fran O'Connor

Fran O'Connor interviews Paralympian Claire Cashmore

Claire is a great ambassador for disability sport and regularly gives motivational talks to children and adults.

London 2012 Paralympians
London 2012 Paralympians
Hi Claire, thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I am an 8 x times Paralympic Swimming Medallist from 4 Paralympic Games.
Claire Cashmore Press Pic
You have achieved so much as a Paralympic athlete. Do you think that in the sport industry able bodied and Paralympic athletes are now seen as equal and on a level playing field?
I competed at my first Paralympic Games in Athens (2004) and it is crazy to see how far it has come since then. London 2012 really put the Paralympics on a pedestal and there has definitely been a change in people's perceptions since then.

I still don't think that I would go as far as saying it is completely on an equal playing field in terms of coverage and sponsorship etc but it is constantly improving and fingers crossed one day it will be.
As you probably know, the fashion industry seems to be a long way behind the world of sport, in terms of diversity and inclusion. What changes would you like to see being made to the fashion industry?
Claire Cashmore in the Pool
Increased exposure to people that are so called “different” is essential. Growing up with one arm I was really self conscious. Meeting and seeing people with all kinds of disabilities at swimming competitions helped me to become comfortable within my own skin.

Unfortunately disability still seems to be a big taboo subject and this is where the fashion industry, a powerful and influential industry could have a positive impact on individuals with a disability. For example, it would be great if we could see the fashion industry starting to create more role models that illustrate that it doesn't matter if someone is 'different' and also encouraging everyone to be proud of who they are. I think that is really important as it could only have a positive impact and increase self worth.
Claire Cashmore with Medal
Have you ever felt like having a disability has affected how you feel about fashion and it's brands or that fashion brands just don't cater for people with various disabilities?
Luckily for me, I've never really felt like having a disability has affected how I feel about fashion. Obviously my shoulders are completely different shapes and size, however I think that most people, even those without a disability have problems with clothes fitting certain parts of their bodies. Because of this, I feel that the majority of fashion brands could definitely do more to cater for all people with and without disabilities.
What are your views on the work that Models of Diversity are doing to try and achieve greater diversity in the fashion industry and the media?
I think it's fantastic! It's great to see Models of Diversity stepping away from the 'norm' in the fashion industry and representing real beauty. Hopefully it will shame the fashion industry into realising that we are in the 21st century now and that you can still be a model and beautiful even though you may have some body parts that don't work, limbs missing, or any other disability.
What advice would you give to anyone who has a disability and feels self conscious because of it?
My advice would be to stop caring about what other people think. I used to be very caught up in worrying about people not liking me, or worrying if I would ever find a boyfriend etc. Eventually I realised that the only reason people wouldn't like me is because I was feeling sorry for myself and not because I had one arm!
Congratulations on recently being awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours list. That must have been incredible for you. What are your goals for the future?
Medaling with Relay Team
It was huge honour and a really special day. It's something I never, ever thought I would receive so everything about it was quite surreal.

I am back into training, I would love to go to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo but I am taking it year by year at the moment.

Outside of the pool I hope to inspire as many people as possible with or without a disability to get involved in sport.

Claire Cashmore

Claire Cashmore