by Dr. Scott Price
Welcome back to the Inclusive Piano Teaching blog. After a brief rest, we are back sharing information and resources with all of you.
Today’s post will include information on where to find resources for teaching students with visual impairments. This group of students includes students who are blind and those with partial vision, but can also be expanded to include those of us who wear corrective lenses, or suffer from macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other conditions.
Fortunately, a wide array of resources is available for students and teachers – you just need to know where to find them.
An important first stop on the journey should be the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The NLS provides numerous services and products to assist with music learning and enjoyment for persons with visual impairments, and is a free library service supported by tax dollars. You can find the main webpage at this link (click on the blue link for access):
This webpage will guide you to all of the resources the Library of Congress offers concerning music instruction for people with visual impairments. Visually impaired persons must register to use some of the services, and to obtain Braille music scores. The breadth of materials includes popular and classical music scores, recordings, textbooks, opera libretti, large-print music scores, the Braille music catalog.
For your piano students, items include braille scores for the standard classical piano repertoire, and many of the widely used piano method series. There is a catalog search function that is easy to navigate. Visit the direct link to the music services page comprehensive listing of resources:
You may also peruse the NLS Music Notes blog for articles on services and general music subjects:
Available for download is a free PDF version of the Music Braille Code. It is 362 pages, and includes information on transcribing music for piano and all other instruments including orchestra and vocal ensemble.
Among many other useful websites and services is the Dancing Dots company. This company was founded by Bill McCann, a blind musician and programmer. Dancing Dots offers Braille music resources and instructional materials, and is particularly notable for the assistive technologies they offer including software to assist with Braille transcription and Braille translation - all available for a cost.
An interesting yet expensive product they offer is a set of “Tack-Tiles” which are a set of plastic blocks much like Lego toy blocks, and have raised dots on top specifically for use in teaching students to read the Braille music code. They can be arranged in different combinations as needed. These are only a few of the Dancing Dot products. Visit the website for more information:
While not music related, an important stop for information regarding services and products for the visually impaired is the National Federation of the Blind. In addition to the national federation website, each state (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) has an affiliate that may be contacted for information and support:
Colleges and Universities should all have an office or center specifically charged to assist students with disabilities. Many students will arrive on campus with learning assistive technology, and other assistive devices and should already be registered for assistance. If they are not registered, you may direct them to the appropriate office through a quick search on the college or university webpage. These offices can also be very helpful to instructors who are learning about services.
If you are interested in learning more about assistive technology, a quick visit to the Perkins Products website will lead you to information on embossing machines, and other products that may be useful in the studio:
If you are interested in having a favorite teaching piece transcribed into the Braille music code, it is possible to gain permission through a publisher. At one point, I contacted a major educational music publishing company to inquire about resources for students with visual impairments. While they did not keep braille music/text items in stock, they said that they were happy to grant permission for pieces to be embossed for accessibility.
This post contains a mere beginning start to find resources for music study for the visually impaired. An internet search can turn up many others that may be of use and interest. And of course, our students are always our best teachers when we need help serving their needs. Many of them will be able to help us navigate resources as we partner with them to meet their educational needs. Join us for our next post that will be about how our piano studio and educational process needs to be adapted to best serve our students with visual impairments.
Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you back soon. The National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy will include workshop offerings on teaching students with special needs. The next conference is scheduled for July 26-29, 2017 in Lombard, IL (a suburb of Chicago). Information is available at: