A member of Britain’s wheelchair tennis squad for this summer’s Paralympics in London has spoken passionately about the importance of disability living allowance (DLA) to her and other disabled people.
Louise Hunt was speaking to Disability News Service as she was named in the ParalympicsGB team to compete at London 2012.
The announcement of the squad came just hours before disabled people gathered outside parliament to protest at how cuts to DLA are likely to make disabled people’s mobility even more difficult.
Hunt, who is 21 and has been playing tennis since she was five, said: “I think it is great that there are people who are standing up for us.”
She receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA. “I think it’s important for people to know that that money is used to buy me a wheelchair, to buy medical things, to basically help me stay alive, and live a normal life, so I greatly appreciate the money I receive.
“That bit of money does help. That money I do receive goes towards helping me live my life in a wheelchair. It really does make a difference.”
She says she is “passionate about disability rights”, but until the games are over her focus will be solely on her sport.
After her career is over, she hopes to follow in the steps of Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who has moved from elite Paralympic sport into campaigning for disability rights.
Hunt is an ambassador for the charity Get Kids Going, which supports young disabled people to participate in sport, and which has Baroness Grey-Thompson as one of its vice-presidents.
She said: “I look up to her quite a lot. I want to go down her pathway. I want to do well in my tennis career but Tanni, she did really well, and after that she used it to make a really big difference.”
She said she saw London 2012 as an opportunity “to change people’s attitudes, not just to disability sport but to disability in general”.
She said: “We get to showcase our talent and how hard we have worked on a world stage.
“I want to change that old-fashioned perception that disabled people cannot do anything. I am here because I have worked equally as hard as an able-bodied athlete. I have trained and trained and trained.”
Hunt, who lives near Swindon, only secured her place at the games by winning last month’s Israel Open, which lifted her world ranking into the top 20.
She said she was “absolutely buzzing” and “screaming from the rooftops” when she was told she had been selected.
But she is not setting any targets for London 2012, other than for her performance. “As long as I leave there knowing I have played the best tennis I have ever played, that’s my aim.”