CCCBSD is one of the few deaf/hard of hearing schools that offers music classes, and the music classroom itself is equipped with numerous unique and advanced accessibility services to give all students a chance to fully enjoy music. One of the challenges that Kelly Surette, CCCBSD’s music teacher, has continuously faced in her work is finding more ways to make music accessible and enjoyable for students who cannot hear. She has come up with solutions through her own creativity, and greatly utilized different available technologies.
When you first walk into the music room, one of the most noticeable things is the wooden dance floor that covers around half of the space. This dance floor is unique because it is set up to produce vibrations in line with the bass of songs, thereby allowing deaf students to feel the music whenever they are standing on it. At the front of the dance floor, a large TV hangs on the wall. Kelly often utilizes it to play ASL videos for the students, particularly YouTube videos of people signing to popular songs. On either side of the TV, there are two tall light boxes that flash with the music. For deeper sounds, the colors fall in the red and orange range. For higher sounds, the colors might be more green and yellow, with the location of the colors on the light reflecting the pitch as well: lower sounds at the bottom and higher sounds at the top.
After discovering that wood is an excellent material for transmitting vibrations, Kelly began making use of it in her classroom. She has placed a long board underneath the lid of the piano for students to touch and feel as she plays. For students who sit in wheelchairs, Kelly has discovered that she can use pieces of wood to branch the distance between a students lap and a speaker. As the speaker vibrates, the student can feel the vibrations from their end of the piece of wood. At one point, Kelly had access to some chairs that vibrate in the same manner that the cochlea in the ear processes sound. She also has a few pillows that do something similar. These tools allow students to feel and hear music in their own unique way.
Through these accessibility technologies, Kelly’s students have been able to truly experience and enjoy music in a way that they might otherwise not be able to. She believes that music is as essential to a child’s education as any other class or subject. In the future, she hopes to utilize more technologies that would allow her students to feel higher frequencies, like her own voice. Some students, she says, will come up to her and place a hand on her throat to experience the feeling of her singing. One day she hopes to be able to do something like that on a bigger scale. No matter what, Kelly is working her hardest to give her students the best music education she possibly can. If there is a way for her to do something more efficiently or more effectively, she will work hard until she can find it.