caption: Large letter keyboards can help partially sighted students. end of caption
More than 1000 blind and partially sighted people study with the OU each year, and most of them are extremely successful. We offer a wide range of services, including audio recordings of study materials.
We have a number of services, described on this page and in the audio summary, that should enable you to study successfully.
You might need to think about reading or accessing study materials, taking notes and producing written work, as well as how to get to tutorials and whether you'll need help at residential school.
Listen to this audio summary of our services for blind or partially sighted students. You can download the audio clip (MP3, 1.16B) to play on your computer, or play the audio on this web page.
The Open University works hard to make sure that all students can participate fully in their modules and in OU life. A wide range of services are available to students with disabilities or additional requirements. This includes audio versions of printed material, in the form of DAISY digital talking books, of many Open University modules.
This audio summary offers an example of the kind of services and support you can expect from the OU. Much of your study will be done in places that suit you, at home or in a library, for example. However, most places you visit for tutorials, residential schools, examinations or graduations are not OU buildings, and that can mean that some of those buildings are not as accessible as we’d like them to be. Because of this, you'll need to check with your regional or national centre that your venue is suitable for your needs.
Sources of support
Every student is encouraged to contact either their tutor or study adviser about their module or any specific requirements. You'll be advised as to the best times to get in touch with your tutor at the start of your module.
Contact is usually by phone or email. But, if you need it, a small amount of additional time (up to six hours per year) may be available for one-to-one contact with your tutor.
Each local OU regional and national centre has advisers who can deal with any queries you might have.
Regional and national centres are open Mondays to Fridays 9am-5pm, but there is an evening advice line as well.
Module materials are offered in a variety of formats, which can include DAISY digital talking book versions of printed material, or as enlarged print or in Braille, or as Adobe PDF files. However, if your preference is for PDF files, you should check the availability and accessibility of PDF files for your module before you register.
You may be eligible for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) to help you obtain specialist equipment. If you're not eligible, then the University has some equipment of its own, available for free long-term loan, including, talking scientific calculators, digital voice recorders, portable closed-circuit televisions and computers with synthetic speech output.
We can't guarantee that every application for loan equipment will be accepted, but we will do our best to provide you with what you need.
The OU can provide examinations in alternative formats, such as large print, Braille, Word or DAISY digital talking book formats. However, you will need to provide written medical evidence to support your request for these materials.
Residential school arrangements
If you select a module with a residential school, you should consider whether you need an assistant to accompany you. It may be very helpful to have someone to read noticeboards to you, help you find your way about, take notes or help with equipment. If in doubt, ask for advice from your regional or national centre.
You can take a friend or relative who is familiar with your needs. Alternatively, we can usually supply an assistant from our register. In either case, the University will bear the cost of the assistant’s meals and accommodation. If you have a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) you may be able to use this money to pay for your own support.
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You may be eligible for a Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) to help you fund study-related support. Use the short DSA eligibility quiz to find out if you are eligible. If you are DSA eligible the University will only provide study support that cannot be provided by a DSA.
Your OU tutor or study adviser is available for contact at certain times through your period of study so you can discuss your requirements. A small amount of additional time may be available for one-to-one contact with your tutor if required.
The OU Learner Support team in your local regional or national centre can deal with any queries you might have, such as choice of location for residential school. Regional and national centres are open Mondays to Fridays 9am - 5pm.
The Evening Advice Line is also available out of office hours.
Tel: 0870 3331444
OU study materials are delivered in a variety of formats, which include books, websites and multimedia. You may have additional study requirements and the OU can provide
If your preference is for PDF files, you should check the availability and accessibility of PDF files for your subject before you register. Not all PDF files are equally accessible: mathematics, science, music and foreign languages may be particularly difficult to access. Read the module description to see what types of study material are included.
You can check accessible study materials for more information on the alternative formats that we can provide. If you require more information, contact your regional or national centre.
You may be eligible for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) to help you purchase specialist equipment.
If not, the University has some equipment available for loan, including
The OU can arrange to make alternative arrangements for examinations where students have additional needs. For example, we can provide a scribe or examination papers in alternative formats such as
Further information, including how to request alternative arrangements, can be found in the main examinations section. Do look at the information as soon as possible as you will be required to provide evidence of your needs and this can take some time.
You should discuss what you will need with your tutor beforehand, for example you might ask them to read out text from the board or slides, or give you enlarged copies of handouts and slides. You may be able to record what is said at a tutorial or residential school, but please remember that the content of an oral lecture remains the property of the OU so you will have to follow certain procedures.
If your study includes a residential school you should consider whether you need more support than you do at home or at work. You may like to consider the use of an assistant who could empower you by responding to any additional need you may have, such as
If you have a Disabled Students' Allowance this might include an allowance for a non-medical helper to act as your support assistant. Alternatively we can usually supply an assistant from our register or you can take a friend or relative who is familiar with your needs and able to support you. Either way, the OU will cover the cost of the assistant's meals and accommodation for students not eligible for a DSA.
I have found thin coloured 'post-it' strips useful for marking sections of study materials which may be relevant to TMAs. I prefer this to highlighting as it's not permanent.
You can download a PDF or Word copy, or buy a printed version of Studying with little or no sight booklet. Registered students can request a copy in print, DAISY or Braille from our regional and national centres. The booklet offers suggestions and advice for study strategies and is generally sent on receipt of the facilities request for general services and equipment on Tell us what you need.
If you have any queries about a module, finance or the support you would receive, please contact an adviser.
For DSA and for examination arrangements you will need to provide written evidence of additional needs. This evidence is usually a diagnostic assessment or medical report but will depend on the individual situation. As this can take a considerable period of time to arrange it is advisable to think about this well in advance.