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by Carmen Willings
Music class is a preferred activity for many students who are blind and visually impaired, but it shouldn't be assumed that all students that are blind will be musicians or be uniquely gifted in this area. Like other areas of the curriculum, adaptations may be necessary to allow the student who is blind or visually impaired to fully participate.
Many aspects of the music program will be the same for students who are sighted and students who are blind or visually impaired. There are some strategies that will help students access the curriculum.
Students should be exposed to a variety of musical instruments from a young age. Show students the different ways that music can be produced. Listening to the differences in sounds will help the student develop auditory discrimination skills. Expose the student to a variety of types of music (ex. concerts, CD's, YouTube videos, etc.) to help develop music appreciation.
The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and the general education music teacher should collaborate, at a very minimum at the beginning of the school year, to review activities and lessons that will be taught throughout the year. If the student will need to read music, it may be necessary to provide enlarged music scores or instruct a student who is blind in the braille music code if the student is a braille reader. Even if the student is using the braille music code, they should be familiarized with print symbols that are used (using tactual graphics) so they can understand terms and descriptions used by their sighted peers. Also, it may be necessary to determine if there is a need for non-visual prompts during conducting.
To help a student practice their scales or other music at home, YouTube videos
can be a great resource. Collaborate with the music instructor to ensure that
the correct version of the song or the correct scale is available. Copy and send
the link home to the family to allow the student to listen and practice at home.
The music braille code
The music braille code is used internationally. Copies of the music code are available for purchase in hardcopy print and braille from the APH or can be downloaded from BANA.
BRL.org offers a very detailed braille music code manual.
'How to Read Braille Music' by Bettye Krolick provides the basics in clear terms with an emphasis on accessibility. The examples are short, fun and to the point. The book identifies music symbols frequently encountered in elementary to intermediate music with an index for identifying new symbols as they are found. View the pages for free on the internet archive!