Louise, 47, gained a first class honours degree in literature, studying Shakespeare, Dickens and other classics, as well as modern drama, philosophy and creative writing. Her husband Phil, 46, graduated with an honours degree in psychology, which is recognised by the British Psychological Society.
Louise had to give up on her degree in Astrophysics at Manchester University when she suddenly lost her sight aged 30 and while bringing up her three-year-old daughter.
She said: “Coping with sudden sight loss, accepting new limitations and giving up on a long held dream was a tough experience that took many years to adjust to. I still needed a great deal of determination and commitment to get my degree, and the second chance offered by The Open University provided the means.”
Phil became visually impaired at the age of 10 when at primary school. He was educated in special schools until he was 20 when he decided that the jobs then on offer at the time - basket weaving, piano tuning and telephony - weren’t for him. He went on to gain an HND in Computer Science and after a short spell as a software engineer and lecturer Phil found his vocation in public relations, working for Deafblind UK, RNIB and a Whitehall Department.
It wasn’t until five years ago, after a protracted period of ill health and becoming registered as deaf and blind, that Phil was able to pursue his interest in psychology and begin a degree with The Open University.
Support to study
Both Louise and Phil have guide dogs who have attended residential schools and tutorials with them during their studies.
Louise and Phil have other impairments which has made working full time or full time study in a ‘brick’ university extremely challenging.
Phil said: “The great thing about the OU is you can study at your own pace, take rests when you need them and it all fits around the needs of your impairments. You can even do your exams at home with extra time and rest breaks.”
Louise added: “The OU have been brilliant at making materials accessible and providing a gateway to grants for people to read course materials. Tutors, librarians and other staff deserve our thanks for going out of their way to support our needs. Without them, our journey would have been impossible.”
Louise and Phil's daughter Maya (pictured below), worked as a non-medical helper during the degrees, reading course materials and proof reading assignments and guided her parents onto the platform at the ceremony. Maya is now at university in Liverpool.
Louise and Phil aspire to part-time masters degrees in script writing and disability studies and hope to attract some support for the fees from organisations or philanthropists.
Louise said: “I’ve written some plays and performance poetry for local organisations and hope in due course to be able to turn this into my career. I would particularly like to combine my two passions of science and writing to produce works which inspire young people to pursue an interest in the sciences.”
Phil added: “I hope one day to be able to return to the employment market even if it’s not in a conventional nine to five way. I’m a passionate campaigner for the rights of blind and partially sighted people and think my background in public relations, my studies in psychology and hopefully a masters in disability studies will fit together to turn these interests into an income stream.”
Louise and Phil intend to focus their determination and talents on leaving the benefits system behind, while working within their physical limitations to earn their income and independence.
Find out more:
- Graduates share their study experiences
- Services for disabled students
- Graduation ceremonies 2012/13
- Study a qualification with the OU