Stoke & Staffordshire

Alton Towers bars Paralympian Claire Cashmore from Smiler ride

The Smiler Ride at Alton Towers Image copyright PA
Image caption Claire Cashmore MBE was refused access to The Smiler

A gold medal-winning Paralympian was refused entry to The Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers because she only has one arm.

Claire Cashmore, who was born without a left forearm, was told she could not go on the ride for safety reasons.

The swimmer, of Kidderminster, tweeted her frustration while celebrating her birthday at the Staffordshire park.

Bosses apologised but said the policy was in place in case the ride had to be evacuated.

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Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Ms Cashmore was refused access to The Smiler due to her disability

The park's operator Merlin was fined £5m after 16 people were injured when two Smiler carriages crashed in 2015.

Ms Cashmore, who won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics' 100m relay, said: "The Smiler was the first ride I went to. At this point my arm was quite evidently on show - I'm not the type of person to hide my arm.

"The lady said, 'I'm sorry, but are you an amputee?'. When I said yes, she told me, 'Unfortunately I won't be able to let you on the ride'."

She asked for the manager to be called, but was still unable to get on the ride.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Ms Cashmore says Alton Towers' response did not explain why she was not allowed on the ride

"You'd think people would be able to see past the disability and just ask if I could do it," said Ms Cashmore.

She said it was the first time she has been refused access to anything because of her disability and called for more clarity on ride restrictions.

"I want to make sure there are no barriers for disabled people," she said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Claire Cashmore works as an ambassador for disability sports

Alton Towers apologised for the inconvenience, but said health and safety was its "main priority" and the resort "would never put any guest at risk."

"In the rare event that it is necessary to evacuate the ride, this may require guests to descend a short distance on a ladder using a harness and safety line," it said.

"Current Health and Safety Executive guidance states it is essential to maintain three points of contact when using a ladder."

Richard Lane, head of communications at disability charity, Scope, said: "It would seem that this policy hasn't been properly thought through.

"Disabled people are too often told what they can and can't do by other people or organisations.

"Businesses should be looking at ways to attract Britain's 13 million disabled people - after all they have a combined spending power of £250 billion - rather than turning them away."

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