To celebrate the start of the Paralympic games, we caught up with Ginny Haymond – a former Paralympian and current Habinteg tenant in Dunstable…
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics last night, my old club mate Phil Craven started off the Opening Ceremony; except he is now called Sir Philip Craven, President of the Paralympic Games. I was awake half the night, but it was worth it”.
Ginny first competed in the Paralympics in Germany in 1972 as an “all-rounder”, and has won 44 sporting medals, with distinct achievements in swimming. As the first tetraplegic woman in the world to swim a mile, Ginny is a determined and ambitious individual who is passionate about her achievements.
Describing her first Paralympic experience as a mixture of excitement and apprehension, Ginny remembers the feeling of panic on the plane about how she would perform in the sporting arena. To this day, watching the Paralympic games on TV always brings back fond memories:
“The one thing I will never forget is the feeling of pride going around that arena representing my country, it was the most amazing feeling. I felt so proud to be British”.
Watching the opening ceremony is undoubtedly an emotive experience for many viewers, and Ginny took some time to consider the importance of inclusion and accessibility. She reflected on the fact that although the UK often has a higher standard of accessibility than other countries, there is still so much to be achieved – both internationally and domestically. In 1985, Ginny travelled to several different countries to give her recommendation on what adaptations could be made to make buildings and public spaces more accessible. She is heavily involved within her local community, and has been on the board for numerous access and disability committees.
As a talented sportsperson, an accomplished piano and guitar teacher, a qualified and practicing counsellor, and the author of six books on a range of topics, Ginny has infused her ‘Olympic spirit’ into everything she has achieved. She holds numerous awards for her achievements, such as the ‘Pride of Houghton’ award in 2006 and the ‘Community Spirit’ award in 2012 for consistently contributing to community development initiatives and charities.
Ginny was paralysed after a road traffic accident several decades ago. When we spoke with her she was reflective and optimistic, recalling how – although she had never felt the need to commemorate the date of her accident before – a few years ago, a group of family and friends surprised her as a celebration of all her achievements. It was then that Ginny realised that all of her major accomplishments had occurred after her accident and she described this as a feeling of empowerment.
Committed member of the community
Ginny has been working towards improving accessibility in her local area since joining the ‘Dunstable Access for All’ committee in 1985. She was the chairperson for ‘Houghton Everywhere Demands a Green Environment’ (HEDGE) and for the ‘Luton Disabled Sports and Social Club’ – for which she remains on the executive committee. Ginny also volunteered with Bedfordshire Police for 9 years as the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator. As a committed member of the community, she works voluntarily with the Bedfordshire County Council, and has successfully campaigned for various local improvements and accessibility features in the Houghton Regis area.
In January 1985, Ginny became the first tenant to move into Habinteg’s Dunstable scheme. She was formerly the Tenant Representative, and has immense pride in her involvement with Habinteg and having her own home. She tends the communal garden with her carers and enjoys keeping it tidy for all the tenants who share and enjoy it. Ginny notes that, in her experience, accessible housing is a key factor to disabled people’s participation in the community. Her accessible home has enabled her to give back to her community through involvment in numerous charitable projects.
“It’s all due to the fact that we have our own homes. If you’ve got the determination and the courage, and the help and the back-up which you [Habinteg] are giving us, then we can do it – we can give to the community and live lives that are fulfilling”.