General
02 Jul 2012

Disabled Student registrations rise 21% at Open University

The Open University has seen a sharp rise in the number of disabled students registering for courses, going from 12,263 in May 2011 to 14,883 in May 2012. The increase of 21% year on year has led to a record high in the numbers of disabled students studying with the institution.

The number of disabled people studying with the OU has been rising steadily in recent years, in part due to efforts to encourage students to disclose their disability. Carol Doran, Assistant Director, Head of Disabled Student Services, said: “This is an important increase, not only because it shows the OU is continuing to be successful in attracting disabled students, but also that individuals feel comfortable in disclosing a disability to us. OU study is attractive to disabled people because they can study at their own pace and fit it around their other commitments and personal circumstances.”

Corinna Murray, 37, graduated from the OU this year with an LLB English Law. 12 years ago, she developed a number of conditions including fibromyalgia, ME, addison's disease, meniere's disease and cervical spondylosis. The combination of these caused her severe pain, fatigue and muscle weakness and she is now a wheelchair user as a result, also having the benefit of a Support Dog who helps with everyday tasks. The OU has continually adapted to Corinna’s condition, providing a helper at residential schools and offering flexibility with home exams. A Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) award paid for equipment to enable her to study in bed and have a personal helper to type up notes.

Corinna said: “I went from walking 10-15 miles a day with my dog to being confined to a bed or wheelchair and sleeping 14-16 hours a day. When you are unable to work the days become very long. I became depressed as a result, but the difference when I began my studies was enormous. It gave me something to fill my time that was worthwhile and gave me a positive goal. With ME and fibromyalgia "little and often" is key to everything and the OU fitted in perfectly with that.”

The OU assists its disabled students with support that best suits them, whether that is assistive technologies, alternative format course materials, assistance at day/residential schools, flexibility in assignments, or home exams. Go to www.open.ac.uk/disability for more information.

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