Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Disabled Students and The Open University

open university
Last year I took the plunge in to the world of academia and signed up to a BA Honours course with the Open University.

I had applied for a few other brick universities, and I had been offered an unconditional place, however after thoroughly looking at the course content I decided that a distance learning approach would suit my needs perfectly.

Just like many other students at the Open University, we all come from a plethora of backgrounds, and a large percentage of those students have some kind of disability or circumstances that affects a traditional approach to learning.

I have a visual impairment as well as suffering with chronic pain in my lower left arm, and both of these conditions can make it slightly more difficult, but certainly not impossible to achieve your study goals.

Through joining Facebook groups such as the Open University Disabled Students Group, I have been able to connect with other students who between them have a wealth of experience and advice on topics relating to being a student with a disability.

Nicola Simpson, deputy president of the Open University Students Association, said: I started studying with the Open University around 10 years ago around the same time that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was experiencing high levels of pain and fatigue and a traditional ‘brick university’ was not an option for me.

The Open University was a great support to me when I told them about my health problems, I was granted extra time and breaks during my exams and my tutors have been very understanding, giving me extensions on assignments when I was unable to complete them on time.

I was also told about the Disabled Students Allowance ( D S A). In my case the D S A covered the cost of a laptop so that I could study from bed if necessary. Without these measures it would have been very difficult for me to complete my degree.

Similarly I applied for DSA at the beginning of my course, and whilst there is a large amount of paperwork to fill in this shouldnt deter anyone from applying, as the support you can receive is worth the man hours.

The assessment process was very informative, and I learnt about new technology that I previously wouldn’t have considered would benefit me in any way.

The assessor recommended that I should use Dragon Dictation software, a program that is installed on your computer and using a headphone microphone I am now able to dictate all of my assignments in? to a text document, which means barely any typing. He also suggested that I should have a new laptop, a braille display, a proof reader for my assignments, and a manual note taker for any tutorials and day schools put on by the university.

These provisions put in place by DSA are obviously quite specific to my disability, but there are a range of technologies and support that can be funded for disabled students that best suit their situation.

I am now about to start my second year of study, and where as at the beginning of the course I had started part-time, my confidence has grown immensely over the last 18 months and I have now signed up to study 120 credits to start in October.

Study can be extremely rewarding, even more so with the right support in place, and I have found more than just an interesting course to get my teeth in to, I have found a supportive community of students.

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