Sunday, October 1st, 2023

Music and the Disabled


Music and the Disabled

We who have full use of our sensory faculties are able to enjoy music to its maximum potential. We listen to music everyday from a variety of sources all of which are taken for granted by those who can see and hear, to one degree or another.

The average person most likely gives very little thought to those less fortunate people who have a sensory disability such as the loss of sight or hearing. Fortunately, there are many who have and who have taken the time and effort to discover ways, means and methods of enabling the disabled person to enjoy the music created by the amazing composers and performers of the world.

Music is just as important to the disabled as it is to those without these limitations. This brief post offers some resources for those seeking help and support to help make their world just a little bit more enjoyable.

For the Deaf

From a Global perspective, the World Federation of the Deaf was founded in 1951 in Rome Italy with a primary focus of supporting and promoting the human rights for those with hearing disabilities without regard to race, color, nationality, sexual preference and all other differences. The work of this organization has spread to include over 130 different countries of the world. There are several important links found on this sight for further research and also to additional resources should you be seeking them.

500px-Closed_Captioning_SymbolLoss of hearing does not generally affect one’s ability to see. Even though you and I can hear the sounds included in a video for instance the deaf are unable to hear them and consequently Closed Captioning was developed and implemented with the aim of making it possible for the deaf to read the words. Since 1971 when it was first introduced, closed captioning has evolved to include methodologies and technologies which provide many avenues to assist those with hearing disabilities to be able to gain the entertainment value and benefits in such areas as television, movies, videos and DVD’s.  In fact, YouTube has an option for closed captioning to the delight of many.

Another method which helps and supports the deaf is the use of sign language. Today, sign language is taught at an early age again enabling the deaf to “hear” through non-audible methods.

The Church of Ladder Day Saints, for example, includes a variety of resources and samples enabling the deaf to observe sign language as applied to music. Their videos include a person “signing” as the music plays giving the deaf an excellent way to “listen” to music.

Another long term resource is the Madonna University which is part of the Catholic University founded by the Felician Sisters of Livonia in 1937. A pedagogical resource, the Madonna University includes resources, classes and courses for students with hearing disabilities enabling the deaf for making music as well as developing the students skills as performers of music through mentoring, guiding, advising and through their coursework.

Also, as mentioned above, YouTube continues to provide video delivery services part of which includes videos created using sign language for the deaf and hard of hearing. The video below is an example of this idea.

The video offers a beautiful performance by Mercedez Waldman using American Sign Language to interpret “Amazing Grace” as wonderfully performed by one of Country Musics leading performers, LeAnn Rimes.

This video offers a rendition of Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was produced at Madonna University as a project in a Sign Language Studies course. Students learning American Sign Language worked with students learning film and video production to produce this video and the result is very beneficial and in full support of the hearing impaired.

Try turning your volume off and watch these two videos. You will get a first hand experience of what the deaf benefits from by learning sign language as applied to music.

For the Blind

The most universally recognized methodology to assist the blind with everyday living, the Braille System was established in 1821 by a French blind man, Louis Braille. The general idea is to emboss into a medium a series of dots laid out in a rectangular fashion from the back of paper or other media to produce a reverse image. Its success has helped millions of blind people all over the world.

National Braille Association, founded in 1945, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing continuing education to those who prepare Braille, and to providing Braille materials to persons who are visually impaired.

Just because there exists a disability doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The World Blind Union was formed in 1984 through the union of the International Federation of the Blind (IFB) and the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (WCWB). However, the WBU represents over a century of global co-operation on blindness issues – dating back to the first international conference on the subject in 1873 in Vienna.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPV) was established in 1975 as a coordinating, umbrella organization to lead international efforts in blindness prevention activities. Its first major achievement was to promote the establishment of a WHO Program for Prevention of Blindness, with which it has remained strongly linked, and which is now embodied in the global initiative, VISION 2020: The Right to Sight.

Founded in 1952, the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) is the organization of individuals and agencies concerned with the formal and non-formal educational needs of children with visual impairment throughout the world. This is a superb resource for those seeking additional information on this subject matter.

Collectively, the WBU, ICEVI and IAPV have aligned with the purpose of supporting and providing outreach to the millions of people who are blind or have limited sight capabilities.

Another resource for those in the United States is the American Council of the Blind which is the nation’s leading membership organization of blind and visually impaired people. It was founded in 1961 and incorporated in the District of Columbia.

Further, Dancing Dots offers courses and technologies for blind or near blind musicians as well as providing excellent resources on the website. I would urge that you visit this site to learn more of the technologies available as well as programs for learning through them.

For All of Us

To rise above the afflictions and frailties of the human experience and to gain control and eventual mastery of ones self is an absolutely amazing gift. It is even more of a gift when those that do give back those gifts to all of us to learn and benefit from.

Three world renown performers immediately come to mind when thinking about music and the blind, Ray Charles who gave us such beautiful music as;  “Hit the Road Jack”, “I Got A Woman” and “Georgia on My Mind”. Ray also had worked with the Academy of Music for the Blind in the later years of his life.

Stevie Wonder as recently as September of this year has lobbied the United Nations (WIPO) on behalf of the blind to increase the rights of blind people to gain access to audio books. He has been a United Nations Messenger of Peace since December of 2009. The list of his accomplishments is quite long and I believe all of us are beneficiaries of this mans lifelong work.

Of course there is the amazing tenor Andrea Bocelli who has appeared in concert to help the victims of the earthquake in Abruzzo. Even though blind himself Mr. Bocceli finds it important to help others in their time of need. His voice is without compare. Here is an example of what I mean.

Andrea Bocelli performs “The Lord Prayer” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

These are but only a few of the amazing artists who have gained fame regardless of their ability to see. To me, what an awesome gift to be afflicted and to work through the emotional and physical restrictions of deafness and/or blindness to move ahead and to help others do the same. We salute all of you!


In conclusion, as you can tell there are many resources available to assist the hearing impaired as well as blind or near blind individuals to pursue their interests in music. If you know of anyone who is restricted by any of these afflictions please let them know about the resources available to them. There are many and consequently, there is no need to stop or avoid pursuing music regardless of your current physical state of health or restriction.


The author would like to thank YouTube for providing the valuable services of video delivery as used here in this article. The videos included are being used under the Embed Policy of YouTube.

Music and the Disabled

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