Paralympian graduate set to sail into new speech and language therapy career
A new graduate from The University of Manchester who has represented her country at sailing will combine her passion for the sport with her speech and language therapy knowledge as she embarks on a new career.
Blaire Hannan from Bristol graduates on Thursday 21 July with a degree in speech and language therapy to cap an amazing four years in which she has carried the Olympic torch in her home town and been involved in Britain’s Paralympic sailing squad.
This is all the more remarkable due to Blaire having a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Fixed Dystonia, which means she is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from chronic pain.
She now hopes to combine her work with a charity which helps disabled and marginalised groups take to the water with her qualification in speech and language therapy to provide an accessible way for people with conditions such as dementia, traumatic brain injuries or with learning disorders to receive therapy in a fun and supportive environment.
She said: “I’m passionate about sailing and I believe that sport is a way for people who are disabled to enjoy life to the full. If that can be combined to help them access speech therapy then it’s a win-win situation. Now that I’ve graduated I’ll be looking to secure a position with a hospital which I can link in with my work with Bristol Sailability.”
During her studies Blaire was often forced to miss lectures because of her condition, which she developed following an accident at the age of 13. She had to take a year out at one point but resumed her course and will graduate on Thursday with a 2:1 grade.
She added: “The University was amazing really. They allowed me to have extensions on essays and extra time to complete exams. Now that I’ve graduated I feel that if you put your mind to it you can make anything possible.”
Blaire’s sailing career is also a major part of her life with one of her finest moments being part of the team at the 2012 London Paralympics. Because of her efforts for charity and her impressive sporting record, she was also selected to be an Olympic Torch bearer in 2012 – carrying the flame on an accessible power boat along Bristol Floating Harbour.
Her tutor at The University of Manchester, senior clinical lecturer, Rachel Starkey said: “The way Blaire has battled through and performed so well on a very demanding degree programme, not letting her disability stand in her way has been amazing. Not to mention her accolades in sport being a Paralympic sailor and the way she helps others.”
The University was amazing really. They allowed me to have extensions on essays and extra time to complete exams. Now that I’ve graduated I feel that if you put your mind to it you can make anything possible