Looking to the future

Helping children, young people and their families decide ‘what next?’

Blindness should be no barrier to musical engagement and success

  • Visual impairment should not be a barrier to participation in all types of music at all levels. The barriers that blind and partially sighted musicians face almost invariably pertain to the ‘infrastructure’ of rehearsals and performance, such as having access to music in braille or another format in time to practise it, and getting to and from a venue. Such issues can almost always be overcome with a little extra thought on the part of those organising an event.
  • For those wishing to study music at college or university, it will often be the support structures that are the challenge, rather than a student’s capacity to engage with the course in musical terms. Again, it is up to the student and those supporting them to be clear up front about the reasonable adjustments that are necessary to enable them to succeed.
  • Assistive technology is increasingly more sophisticated and enables easier access to materials that were previously only in print, although here there are challenges too, as the programs that make software accessible do not necessarily keep pace with the changes and developments that are occurring all the time. As inclusive design gains a stronger foothold, hopefully these difficulties will become less of a problem in the future.

Many of these issues are raised and discussed in Zoe’s story. Zoe's Story As her mother, Aileen, observes, music has shaped Zoe’s life. It is something that, from an early age, she has been able to do well. It has helped to shape her identity, both in her view and in the minds of her sighted peers. Through music, she has been able to express herself, and share her creativity with others. When she was only 14, for example, she won the Britten Young Songwriter Competition with her atmospheric Orford Lighthouse, which was recorded live at the Aldeburgh Festival. Subsequently, three of her choral works won national competitions. Beyond this, music has offered Zoe a route into higher education at a prestigious university. The Amber Trust has been pleased to be able to support her at various points in her musical journey, initially contributing towards the cost of a harp, supporting her at the Junior Birmingham Conservatoire and providing funding to enable her to attend the Handel & Hendrix House Composition Summer School in London in partnership with the RNIB. In the UK, under the Equality Act 2010, all public bodies (including universities) have a duty to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity. They must make reasonable adjustments to remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people. In Zoe’s case, this has meant supporting her to access materials in digital form or in braille; allowing her extra time in examinations; and permitting her to use amanuenses and other forms of assistance. In addition, Zoe is entitled to a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) from the government, which she can use to purchase specialist equipment and to pay for personal assistants, among other things.