Our flexible distance learning teaching methods are particularly popular with disabled people who often need to be able to study flexibly.
Through our widening access work we have worked with disability and carers organisations across Wales to promote the opportunities the OU can offer and also to offer enhanced support through specific outreach activities.
In 2009 the OU in Wales developed a partnership pilot in the Merthyr area, with Hafal, a national mental health charity working with individuals recovering from serious mental illness and their families, and Voluntary Arts Wales.
Following a partnership Open Day a group of students from the Hafal were signed up for a OU HE Openings distance learning course. In addition through the OU in Wales widening access programme the group received local study support to help them progress through their first distance learning experience.
When we started working with the Hafal students they were, initially, very apprehensive about studying as they had been out of education for some time and Higher Education was an unfamiliar area for most of them.
However through the support given, in spite of step backs along the way, several of the Hafal students completed the Openings course. In addition three members of the group have just completed a 60 credit undergraduate programme in Health & Social Care and are currently planning to progress to level 2 modules with the OU from October 2011.
Richard first discovered the Open University at a disability and carers learning event in Newtown, Powys which was organised by the OU in Wales as part of its widening access work.
The Open University Access Bus was at the event and Richard, who has been blind for the past 7 years was able to talk through his various study options and hear about the additional support available for disabled students.
After the event, Richard signed up for one of the OU’s Openings courses, Exploring sport online. The course is specifically designed to build confidence and essential study skills for people new to formal academic study. Being online it was a very accessible option for Richard who uses screen reader software. As part of the OU's widening access activity, Richard also took part in a local study club, enabling him to meet other students and get some additional support and encouragement from a local tutor.
Having passed his first module, Richard has just completed his second and starts his third soon. As an active volunteer in his community, Richard is determined to work towards an honours degree which he hopes will help him in his future community work.
Richard was the 2011 winner of the Inspire Adult learner award for Wales.