This is the link to SENSE 2012 Lecture. It covers the complete event that took place at the London Institute of Physics on November 13th 2012 .

Lifelong Learning Festival, Cork School of Music 2013. (transcript)

Good morning everybody. I am really happy and deeply honoured to be invited here to this wonderful venue.
I especially want to thank the Cork School of Music, and in particular Edel O'Sullivan for all the work and preperation that went into staging this very important event for the DeafBlind community.
I would also like to thank Deirdre Creedon, Disability Access Officer, C.I.T. for making the I.S.L communication available. (THANK YOU)
My name is Orla O’Sullivan, and I am both deaf and visually impaired. I am a qualified music teacher.
I teach Piano and Keyboard to deaf and hearing pupils. I teach from beginners up to diploma level.
This includes all the Theory, Aural, Sight-reading, Scales, and Practical skills.
I am the first DeafBlind person to qualify as a music teacher at this level.
I am the only DeafBlind person in Ireland to have been taught to this standard.
And my great ambition is to pass this knowledge on to the Deaf and the DeafBlind Community.
To make it possible for anyone to learn, play, and enjoy Piano and Keyboard to the highest standard.
I am now going to play a piece of music that I hope you will all enjoy. The piece is about 4 minutes long. It is called:
I am going to continue by showing you a short news clip that was played on national TV in Ireland.
It features a Deaf student of mine, Alain Newstead, his mother, and myself. The other star of the show is the “Imusic Floor (c)"(TV 3 clip-2.00 min)Though I was happy to participate in the news item at the beginning the final edit shown on TV was disappointing.
The disappointment lay in the way the item was presented. Myself and Alain were made to look like people to be pitied, to feel sorry for.
This upset me. That and the fact that the item was not subtitled or signed.
We are not people to be pitied.
Instead of pity, people like Alain Newstead should be celebrated for not allowing a disability to stop them from achieving a goal in life.
Disability is not a barrier. It is just an obstacle to be overcome.
In September 2012 South Korean DeafBlind writer and educator Young-Chan brought a film crew to my home and to my old school in Bishopstown to make a documentary about my teaching and learning methods.
(Show Young-Chan clip)
I noticed very quickly how professional and courteous they were.
There was no sign of pity from them, just curiosity and a desire to learn.
The film was shown on South Korean TV last November.
Also in November last year I was invited to London as a guest of SENSE, the UK DeafBlind Organisation.
Other special guests at the London event were my good friend Russ Palmer, Russ is DeafBlind music therapist, and performer.
Here is a sample of Russ, playing his own composition, 'DeafBlind Blues' (
(Play RUSS)
And I should also mention Mark Pampel ( ) another DeafBlind pianist who performed at the introduction to the SENSE Lecture.
I want to introduce you to Anna. Anna is fully hearing and fully sighted. I have been teaching Anna for over seven years.
She is now studying for a Grade 6 exams . And as you will see and hear; she is very talented
(Anna video play)
What you also see is that.. I.. a deaf and visually impaired teacher is quite capable of teaching to the highest standard.
I have been teaching music for 22 years. I have taken pupils as beginners and taken them all the way to diploma level.
This is not to say that I had no difficulties. When I began teaching piano, guitar, and other instruments 22 years ago my first class, on keyboard, was a group of 15 fully hearing and fully sighted Primary school pupils.
It was very difficult because of my DeafBlindness.
There was no official recognition of DeafBlindness at that time.
So in the classroom I could not see clearly the pupils who were furthest away from me, nor could I hear them when they spoke.
This led to many embarrassing situations for me.
So I had to learn methods to overcome it.
What would have really helped at that time was a classroom assistant to tell me when a pupil wanted to ask me a question.
So I had to use my own methods... like only allowing a pupil to speak after I saw them put their hand up.
That gave me time to move up close to the pupil to read their lips as they spoke.
This was exhausting work.
The concentration needed was very intense.
Another method that helped was memorising the whole day's lesson in advance.
And also memorising the list of answers to the questions that I expected they might ask.
It didn't always work. And sometimes the pupils took advantage and misbehaved.
As all pupils will if they get a chance!.
I also insisted, whenever possible, on using four staved manuscripts.
But even though I was successfull as a teacher it was a huge challenge.. without a classroom assistant.. to teach large groups.
So now I usually teach one to one like most piano teachers.
If I can just explain it this way. What I hear is normal for me. What I see is normal for me.
What a fully hearing and fully sighted person sees and hears is normal for them. So I have to use a lot of imagination for the things I don't hear or see.
The next clip you will see is of myself and my mother Betty O’Sullivan.
Without my mother’s devotion and encouragement I would have never been able to get to the professional level I am at today. The video will explain.
..Play video……)………………….
I have one last video to show you. This is about the “Readit Scholar”
Until recently there was no technical aid suitable for me to read a music score and play simultaneously.
So it was a very long and tedious process for me to learn a piece of music.
It meant I had to memorise thousands of notes and composition directions from the music score.
That all changed with the Readit Scholar. Now I can read easily, and play while I read. Please watch (Readit Scholar clip…4 minutes)
Finally, I want to again thank Cork School of Music, and Cork Institute of Technology for allowing me to come here today.
I look forward to a future of more understanding of the DeafBlind community.
A future where the DeafBlind can be celebrated, not pitied, or patronised. Thank You….
Any further information can be found at
My CD Sound Senses can be purchased or ordered here.
The CD is collection of some of my favourite pieces of classical and traditional music on piano.
I would like to play one more piece of music. It is a short piece that I wrote myself.
It was inspired by the birth of my son John Amadeus on the 1st of May last year.
This was first performed in public at the London Institute of Physics during the SENSE Lecture. I hope you like it.
It is called “A Lullaby To John Amadeus” (Play piano 2.5 minutes)
I would be delighted to answer any questions you might have. I have two special guests to help me here.
One is my mother Betty O'Sullivan, and the other is my very first music teacher Jean Downey.
These are the first two teachers who gave me the inspiration to be the best that I could be.


Below is the transcript link from the SENSE lecture, London, November 2012

During my life, I have been influenced by the following Deaf, DeafBlind, and Blind musicians.

The most important recent influence was Russ Palmer, the renowned Music Therapist, who with his partner Social Haptic Communication Specialist, Riita Lahtinen, gave me the confidence and encouragement to believe that I could play a big part in bringing music appreciation and teaching to the Deaf, and the DeafBlind community. See:

Another notable influence was Paul Whitaker, who is profoundly deaf, has surmounted many obstacles to form his own orchestra for Deaf children in Manchester. Paul set up his music centre – Music and the Deaf - in Manchester 22 years ago.

He plays the piano and organ and teaches music to deaf children and integrates them with the hearing community using sign language as their first language of communication. Using sign language and singing actually helps deaf children to express themselves and grow in confidence. This shows that there is a greater interaction and social inclusion for both deaf and hearing people, and it also helps to promote deaf awareness and advocacy.

I was also influenced by Elizabeth Petcu, who is hard of hearing. She is a former principal flute with the Radio Telefis Eireann Concert Orchestra. I performed at her special concert for the Hard of Hearing in Dublin in 2008. She wrote articles about her hearing problems which ended her orchestral career with the RTE Concert Orchestra. She says that for any musician to lose their hearing would be hard to cope with and "Beethoven is thought to have had it as well"

Andrea Bocelli is at present the world’s best Italian tenor and is also blind. From reading his story and attending his magnificent performance in the 02 in Dublin, I was fascinated by his achievement and determination in spite of his blindness. He never talks about his blindness but is once to have said, "My blindness is not a tragedy to me – I don’t see why it should be to others."

These people help prove that no matter how limited you are, you can still achieve your goals. I hope this will encourage people in similar situations to use their ability to break barriers. Using their own talents and gifts will give them greater confidence and help them express themselves freely. Music is for everyone, retrospective of age, disability, or race.

Phil Coulter, a pianist, songwriter and singer from Northern Ireland, had a great influence on me since I was a young child. One of my favourite songs is Scorn Not His Simplicity. He wrote this song about his son who has a disability.