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Karis Williamson

 Sandy Fea Photography courtesy of Muscular Dystrophy UKKaris Williamson from Inverness is a member of Muscular Dystrophy UK's 'Trailblazer' network, which campaigns on key issues for young disabled people. She began studying with The OU in Scotland aged 16, having left school in the last year of primary. 

With OU courses in The arts past and present and Making sense of the arts successfully completed, Karis, who has congenital muscular dystrophy, is now studying for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Open Honours Degree; a flexible degree programme where students can choose their own subjects to build a bespoke qualification.

Karis is currently finishing Introducing the social sciences and hoping to start a Creative writing course next.

She said: “I would tell someone thinking of studying with The OU to go for it, they won't regret it!

“I would definitely recommend The OU as it's been life-changing for me, has given me some self-respect, and re-educated me about what education really is and who I really am and what I'm capable of. Even if I never get to graduate, I have gained so much from it that I could never regret it."

Expanding horizons

Karis (pictured right, with her mum) said: “I decided to study with The OU as I had missed a few years of formal education. I loved poetry and creative writing and I wanted to re-discover education, get a degree and I felt that I was capable of it.  

“Due to my illness I can never take tomorrow for granted and I wanted to squash in as much as possible while I can!

“I already loved the arts and humanities and studying them confirmed this for me and introduced me to things I hadn't explored, like philosophy and art history. I also decided to study social sciences as I wanted to try something different and I was especially intrigued by the content of the course and how people's differences impact upon the social world.”

Karis has enjoyed the variety of OU study methods, including study days in Inverness and Edinburgh which she found “incredibly useful and very motivating”.

On her favourite course - in which she gained a distinction - Karis said:

I enjoyed The arts past and present the most as it opened up new worlds for me and it gave me confidence to tackle things I never imagined I would, such as studying the ancient world, Buddhism and Seamus Heaney.

“The thought of graduating keeps me motivated along with the support of those around me.”

Support provided

She said: “The OU couldn't have done anything further to support me. The Student Support Team are fantastic and helped me to access the equipment I need to study and my tutors have been very supportive.

"My Arts past and present tutor really encouraged me to explore things academically and in my own way. I also felt that the team who supported my entry to the University were really behind me and wanted me to succeed."

Karis receives Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). She said: “The DSA has been invaluable for my studies, providing the equipment and assistive technology I need to access the course materials, such as an eye-gaze computer, special software, a printer and a bookstand.”