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Finding my feet – how Chelsey chose the OU way

OU student and former disabilities model Chelsey Reynolds is aiming to “make a difference” as she heads on a new journey towards a degree.

Chelsey Reynolds

Chelsey, a Politics, Philosophy and Economics student has come a long way since leaving her failing school with a clutch of GCSEs and low self-esteem.

The 27-year-old Essex-born former model gained confidence the hard way, turning diversity into a career when disability struck.

At the age of 20 and working towards becoming a nurse, Chelsey fell victim to a chronic illness called POTS, an autonomic condition in which your body essentially cannot cope with posture change, which leads to unconsciousness with standing, and extreme fatigue among other symptoms.

“It was like a switch that suddenly went off, my life completely changed from the very first episode when the condition struck.”

Finding her “voice”

She was forced to adapt to life using a wheelchair for the next 5 years, but during her time of disability Chelsey’s life took an unexpected turn.

She discovered Models of Diversity and while she found the trials and tribulations of being a young women suddenly having a disability, she also found her voice.

Over the years I have been a vocal presence – standing up for the rights of those who have a disability  – raising issues on store websites and campaigning for more recognition and to raise the confidence of those in a similar position to me.

Her volunteering took her to unexpected heights – becoming Director of Disabilities for the Models of Diversity and speaking in Parliament at the launch of Disability Equality Roadshow.

Chelsey, courtesy James Lyon Photography

It has taken 5 years of patience and consistency, but in the last 10 months or more Chelsey has been able to recondition her body , mainly by regular swimming to remind her body of what it should be doing automatically and counteract the symptoms.

Since being “back on her legs permanently” she decided to put all the experience and life lessons from her time as a young disabled women into the long-held desire to gain a degree. She opted for the OU for its open entry.  She says:

I don’t have A-levels, left school 10 years ago as a very average student but I had always wanted to do a degree. I was nervous to go for it due to questioning my capabilities, but I am glad I did as I love it and I love how the OU works – you go online for directions and you do it in a way that works for you.

“There’s plenty of tricky bits don’t get me wrong! My writing style for one, I have to make it more academic – and there’s the referencing!

“Tutors are so supportive

“But I am giving myself credit for doing it and getting on with it. And of course life does happen, you have to fit around things and make the sacrifices when you can.”

“The tutors are so supportive. I suffer from quite bad anxiety so I find it is good to share things on the forum. It is a community 100%. I know it’s going to be a long road but it’s step by step.”

Luckily she has the support of her partner and colleagues at work.

On what she eventually wants to do with her qualifications, Chelsey says:

“I just want to make a difference, I feel like I have seen both sides of the coin and now I want to take my life experience to make a difference for others who perhaps don’t have that confidence to speak up for themselves. I’d like to think I can represent the community and bring some desperate changes to politics.

There needs to be an Essex girl from a council estate in Parliament!

About Author

Christine works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University and focuses on stories from the Faculty of Social Science and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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