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AFTER being left fighting for her life, photographer Joanne Keepe is embracing a new future, coming to terms with disabilities and building a new career.

Joanne is lucky to be alive after falling from the seventh floor of a building in an incident which left her in a coma and needing months of hospital care and extensive operations.

After learning to walk and even drive again thanks to medical shoes and a specially-adapted car, she knew she had to rethink her profession as a photographer due to the physical nature of the job – and so decided to turn back to education.

Now refusing to let her physical disabilities hold her back the 45-year-old is entering her third year of study for a Photography BA (Hons) as she looks to rebuild a very different career in the industry.

Joanne said: “I was so lucky to be alive, but when I was in hospital I thought all my dreams were over and everything had been taken away, I had to work hard to focus on what was important to me.

“It was one step at a time and I didn’t want to give up photography but I can’t be on my feet all day anymore. I knew a degree would open up avenues for me to work in editing or management.

“When I left school I had children and thought I had missed my chance to go to university. But now they’re grown up I have all the time I need to do this for myself.”

Joanne, who lives in Hayes, made the most of University of West London’s summer school which helps mature learners get up to speed with study skills before they begin a degree course.

She is now studying part time to give her full control around her health needs, and has made the most of additional support in campus, including an ergonomic chair in lectures, and adaptations to allow her full access to the workstation in the photography darkroom.

“I’m not the only person on my course over the age of 18 and that really helped me feel like I fitted in,” she said. “We all have different life experiences and skills and nobody is too old to study.

“Even if you have a condition or disability there is support every step of the way and learning can be so flexible. I see people from all walks of life at UWL and it’s an inspiration to know I’m part of that.”