Proposals, Plans, and Links

Proposal original. From: Orla O'Sullivan.
Date: 17 March 2014 at 16:58:11 GMT.. Revised October 2017
To: John Murphy, Department of Education Inspector.
Subject: Proposal..... Orla O'Sulivan... Update.. And related issues.


Hi John,
This is to update you on our activities since we had our initial meeting.

The difficulties regarding the vibro acoustic floors have been solved. Brian has made one himself. I have tested it. It works. Brian is now making adjustments. I have added an email to him which will explain.

The visuals are outstanding. And will get even better.

The vibro box that Brian has made will resembles standard speaker amplifier. But much smaller. It has the much needed increased vibrations and much reduced sound volume.

At the end of this proposal there is information on alternative hardware. It is much more expensive and more difficult to secure.

So the best option, the most effective, option, for vibration... Is the portable Brian Leach designed vibro-acoustic floor/box/system.

The students will place their feet on this box. The box will be sturdy and portable.

<*>The visual display with the coloured keys, corresponding coloured lights, and, the metronome white light, is perfect.

It is important at the outset to state that Orla can stand alone on her own expertise and accomplishments. She has taught, and still teaches hearing pupils without technical aids.

She has taught Deaf primary school children, without technical, aids. But this was very difficult and success was confined to simple right hand melody.

It was just a few years ago that she taught another Deaf student using a simple design music floor. But had she had the use of a vibro acoustic floor the teaching would have been easier for her and her pupil. But it was successful nonetheless.

What she has inspired us to do is to find ways to make it easier, better, and faster, for her to teach, and Deaf students to learn. And I think you will agree, she has accomplished this as well now.

Of course all this depends on whether the Department is going to invest. Even with the very best of equipment it would not be a huge amount to fit out one classroom. And this investment would last for years.

But what about, beyond one school, beyond one County, beyond one country even? And it is important to again note here, that this system, will not only aid the Deaf. Any music student can use it.

For all the years of research, for all the millions spent.. Here and elsewhere. There is still not one school or institution, anywhere, than is approaching this the way we are.

And we have searched. One academic, in England, tried to do it. Paul Whittaker. What he has done is interesting, but there is no (instant visual), no (instant vibration).

It looks like it depends on direction from a conductor, a bit like choreography.

These are the gaps that we fill.

<*> The Deaf student is in charge of their own action, their own experience.

The student strikes a coloured key on a keyboard..

And immediately that note and corresponding colour appears pulsing in intensity instantly on the screen in front of them.

The student will learn from the intensity of the pulsing note how to interpret the value of each note, and how long each note is played.

<*> Now add the corresponding vibration and metronomic timing and tempo. That halo of white light connects with the metronome of the keyboard. It strikes with the time signature of a piece.

For example if the time signature is 4/4, which means there are 4 beats per bar, the metronome light will strike the beat 4 times for that bar regardless of how many notes per bar, the value of each note per bar, or, the type of each note per bar.

Here again you see the instant response on the screen from the striking of the note key on the keyboard.

<*> And here again the student is in charge of their own experience, in charge of their own action.

This will then allow the student to understand music in a more real way. So that the intricate notation of an actual music score will make intellectual sense. So you will have a musician, a real musician, a Deaf musician.


So you have a student. Who now understands what music is to them. And this is where you add imagination. You imagine what you can not hear.

<*> Orla: "This is what it ls like for me. A Deaf music teacher. Beginning, when my mother put my fingers on the piano keys, and let me feel the vibration.

From that day to now my passion for music has not dimmed. My passion for passing on my skills to the Deaf has increased.

Because I know what it did for me, my confidence, my communication skills, my teaching skills.. My voice.

<*> In my classroom,  there would be melody, timing, it would be music, real music. To a high standard.

I would accept nothing less.

The students would have their own instruments. They would have the instant visual display"

Proposal cont.

As this works, it will be a revolution. Revolutions cost money. So let's see what needs to be spent. Let's do a proposal

The software has to reflect Orla's methodology.

It has to have a name?

'Sound Senses' That title has already been used on her CD.

The methods and aids to teach music, that is music theory, and music practical, aural, and performance.

Methods by Orla O'Sullivan..
Teaching software, and acoustic hardware, by Brian Leach...


Orla O'Sullivan will teach music to Deaf students employing the recognised methods used by music teachers in general.

The added qualities she possesses, which would be essential to the effective teaching of music to the Deaf.

1. "That I am Deaf"

2. " I can use ISL sign language to properly communicate with Deaf students"

3. "I have taught Deaf pupils in the past, successfully"

4. "I am a highly qualified music teacher with 23 years experience"

5. "I have taught pupils from when they were beginners all the way to Grade 8, and prepared them, those who were hearing pupils, for Diploma level"

6: "It is one of my greatest passions in life to pass on my skills as a musician to the Deaf and sensory impaired pupils. It can be done.. I am the proof of that.. And I can prove it"

7. "With the software and sound system set-up, developed by Brian Leach, in consultation with me, it will be done in a way it has never been done before"


Brian Leach has developed a software and hardware programme to aid the teaching methods of Orla O'Sullivan.

1. "How this works is that I take each musical note as it is played and then turn that note into a lighted and coloured pulsing visible image. Each of the seven notes have a different colour from the seven colours of the rainbow.

The colours reflect the colour of the keyboard key that is played. This pulsing coloured image appears instantly on a screen in front of the person who strikes the note on the keyboard"

2. "There will be an instant corresponding vibration felt, by the student, via their feet, from that note, to the vibro acoustic box"

3. "That vibration will be mirrored on the screen as a pulsing light within the note. This will show the intensity, and the time duration of each note"

4: "An even stronger vibration will come from the keyboard metronome. This will reflect the beat and tempo of the music. That light will always be white, and will be a surrounding halo on each beat of the time signature per bar.

5. "This light will teach perfect timing to each student"

6: "This will make it easier for the Deaf student to understand music. It will also make it easier for Orla to teach"

7: "It should be understood. That this system would not only benefit the Deaf student. This could help all music students"


The portable vibro acoustic music box would be useable in a normal non-soundproofed classroom. A portable one for each student.

The portable tac-tile acoustic box has built-in speakers equivalent to a good HiFi.

Headphones to isolate each student from each other.

This is an estimate of what it will cost to fit out one classroom. With maybe 5 students.

(1): One off cost of licensed software application developed by Brian Leach. €1000.

(2): 5 standard four or five octave keyboards that have midi connection to each PC. €100 each: €500

(3): 5 standard pcs with good definition screens €200 each:  €1000.

(4): 1 (80) watt amplifier to aid performance of students individually. €250

(5): 5 vibro acoustic boxes, designed by Brian Leach. €2000 approx (€400 each)

(5): A selection of aids like, headphones, books, etc. €500.

(6): The fee to Brian Leach to load and test the software into each of the 5 PCs and vibro acoustic boxes:  €250

(7): Add this to salaries for one music teacher and one teaching assistant with ISL skills?

<*>Total, excluding salaries:  €5500. This figure is approx.

The cost can be much less by reducing the amount of software and hardware.

See email to Brian, 17th March. Discussion about technical issues.

Hi Brian,
I have been thinking about how the system works. And how it could be used for teaching.

When I was out at your place and using the system for the first time it was amazing how it works.

I know that trying it for the first time I would not be able to fully understand what it does. We have to learn what it does. And then teach it to do what we want.

The metronome keeping the beat with that kind of vibration is perfect.

But the strength of the vibration for the notes has to be controlled. My leg shook when I tried it first. We have to reduce that power to a vibration that can be felt in a less powerful way.

The visuals on the screen from the last test are brilliant and will be even better when the colours from the keyboard match the colours on the screen. And better still when the shapes are made to look more like notes.

The notes pitchs are different. And here I have concerns. If all the vibrations are in bass and different, that is different octave to the note being played it will make teaching almost impossible.

The vibration will have to match the note. Is it possible to do that?

The other thing is how the classroom would work.

I remember you saying something about separating the sound from the vibration. That is having the vibration in the vibro box and the sound in the amplifier.

Myself and Dan have talked about this. And we see there will be problems there. It's about noise and equipment.

If you have five Deaf students with five keyboards connected to five 80 watt amplifiers all playing different notes and, at the same time, the confusion of noise in the room would be too much.

So we have to design a classroom. Let us say there are 5 students. Each student would have to be isolated when they are practising and learning.

So is it possible to connect the vibro box directly to the keyboard. So you would have two headphone connections in one. That is a normal headphones to isolate the student from the others.

And then a second connection to the internal speakers in the keyboard to operate the vibro box. This will mean that the student playing will not disturb, and will not be disturbed by the sound or vibration from the others in the class.

That would also mean that they would not be heard from the big 80 watt amplifier. They would not need it. They would only connect to that kind of amplifier for public performance and exams.

Now to make this work even better you would have another connection for the teacher. The teacher would have a way of listening while watching the visual display of each student on their screen.

The teacher can do this by having the means to listen to each student separately, one at a time, by allowing the notes they are playing to to heard from just one high watt classroom amplifier.

That same amplifier would be independently connected to each keyboard. But they would be muted. The sound of each keyboard would only be heard if selected by the teacher.

The actual sounds from the keyboards themselves can be isolated controlled with the headphones that each student would be wearing.

The class can be structured in a normal academic way with time for reading, writing, discussion, etc.

So you will have a classroom with students, a teacher, and a teachers assistant.

The equipment would be five keyboards, five vibro boxes, one 80 watt amplifier.

We will have to figure out how to make the headphones and vibro boxes to work together in the keyboards. And to allow each keyboard to be monitored separately by the the teacher. And to also allow the keyboards to be listened to separately on the 80 watt amplifier.

Can you bring the vibro box and fittings to my place some day soon. What do you think?

I have two headphones. I have two headphone connections on my keyboard, but they do not fit, the connections on the headphones are smaller than the connections on the keyboard. Do you have adapters for that.

I also saw midi connections on the keyboard, but I think you already know that.

Can you pick a day from next Saturday, Sunday, or Tuesday, would that be ok with you? Dan will collect you and bring you home.

Orla / Dan.

We have tested the low watt speakers, with feet, placed on them, while music plays. It was not good. For any kind of recognisable, even weak, vibration, the volume had to be very loud. So that avenue should be discarded.

See floors, chairs, and other devices, portable, and fixed. With costs and availability., and costs etc on these links

Paul Whittaker music workshop.. Hungary:

More information about costs and installation, from Paul Chamberlain of Sheffield Hallam University:

Sent from my iPad

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Chamberlain, Paul"
Date: 8 March 2014 11:50:59 GMT
To: Orla O'Sullivan
Cc: Russ Palmer , Russ Palmer , Brian Leach
Subject: Re: Paul and Russ. And tried and tested tactile floors (portable)

Dear Orla

I spoke at length with Russ this week to explain the situation. I will embark on investigating possibilities but this may take some time. Rompa the company who originally produced the tactile sounds system had a management change a couple of years ago and have not been so committed to develop new products and decided to drop the tactile sounds system because of the relatively small production numbers. I will contact them to see if they sold any in Ireland.

I have had a number of requests for the tactile sounds system since Rompa ceased production and in two instances we produced a tactile system within the university.
There are however a number of factors if we were to consider this option.
I will have to check the factory who makes the plastic shells can still supply them to us
We would have find a research assistant who has time or employ a research assistant to make the modules. This may take some time and we would be looking more realistically at 8-12 weeks delivery from order.
As we would be supplying the product as a University we are not able to provide ongoing repair and maintenance. The price of the system would be at just cost so we could not resource ongoing support as a commercial company would offer.
We have supplied directly to schools and centres since Rompa ceased production and indeed before they took up production. In all cases they have been very happy with the system in Finland they have been using one for over 15 years.
The way we have to approach this if we were to consider supplying you with a tactile system is not as a commercial transaction but more of research collaboration. You would give us money to support our research we would give you permanent loan of the system.
If this is something you wish to consider and pursue then I will start with the most important factor (1) to see if we can obtain the plastic shells

I hope this is  helpful

Best regards


From: Orla O'Sullivan
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2014 17:25:33 +0000
To: Brian Leach
Cc: ""
, Russ Palmer , Russ Palmer
Subject: Re: Paul and Russ. And tried and tested tactile floors (portable)

Hi Brian.. Got all that... Forwarding this to Russ and Paul. If we had the plans and specs we could make one ourselves.

?.. Russ-Paul.. What would the situation be regarding that? If TTSS were unavailable. Could it possible to make one up here?

Are there any TTSS available anywhere, for hire, for sale?

Orla / Dan

Sent from my iPad

On 5 Mar 2014, at 16:06, Brian Leach wrote:

Yes it would be better to get something that is tested and approved!
But are they available? It says that the TTSS are distributed by ROMPA but i cant find it on the web site.

I did come across other similar things:

There are probably more out there but these are not exactly what we are looking for, and its probably better to source them closer to home than america!

Russ is the expert so maybe he could recommend an available product if we can't get the TTSS? I would be interested to see the specifications of the TTSS before buying, 'Wattage' and 'frequency response' in particular. I have seen the links you sent and there is no mention of specifications.


On Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 11:35 PM, Orla O'Sullivan wrote:
Hi Brian,
We are not sure if you saw the portable tactile music floors developed by Sheffield. See the first link.
The second link is the fixed floor.

If we could get the portable ones we would be sure of getting tested and approved, and award winning design.

We will email Paul again and ask where we can get them?

What do you think?

More later.

Orla / Dan

Paul and Russ.

Below this paragraph you will find a link to portable tac tile music floors. Which are adaptable to many convenient shapes and patterns.

There is also a link to fixed vibro acoustic floors beneath this paragraph.

The portable mobile tac tile system we developed with Russ consisted of 4 single modules that
together made up a small floor. I guess you could say four people could
potentially engage with it at any one time. The commercial price was
around £1200 (excluding amplifier and audio feed source) but this was
based on a production with an economy of scale. To undertake very small
production I guess with labour costs it would probably work out at around
£1200 including amplifier and audio feed source. If you used the system
format ( 4 modules) we had then for 10 users you would need at least two
systems £2400 however you might be able to have a single source audio feed
that would reduce costs.

I hope this is of some help



On 03/03/2014 11:04, "Orla O'Sullivan" wrote:

Hi Paul,
This is just a short note to thank you for your advice earlier. The
education department here are examining my proposal to teach music to the
Deaf. They will report soon, yes or no.

I have been asked what it would cost to install a music floor, fixed, or
portable, like what what you have developed in Sheffield with Russ Palmer.

Could you tell me what it cost, an estimate, for say, a classroom with 10
Deaf students?

I will let you know immediately of any news they give about my proposal.

Kind regards,

Sent from my iPad

On 24 Feb 2014, at 10:54, "Chamberlain, Paul"

Dera Orla,

Thank you for your e.mail and I was very interested to hear what you are
doing. I worked with Russ Palmer on the TacTile sounds system over 10
years ago however I think our approach and conclusion demonstrated in
product is still relevant. Although there are a number of technologies
available to create the vibration (e.g. Transducers) an amplifier and a
good mid range speaker is the most robust and economical. A normal
is rigid on all sides to minimise vibration and open on one side to
the sound (maximise vibration from the paper speaker cone). The
with a vibro tactile floor is to maximise vibration while creating a
strong structure to stand on. This is somewhat directly opposing, to
create a thin and responsive membrane to maximise vibration but robust
structure. What we created was a lattice work inside that sat on top of
the speaker mounting upon which was a thin polycarbonate plastic (3-4mm)
Ply-wood wood equally suffice but the plastic allowed us to produce a
vacuum formed shell that was very durable and water proof. This
process is only viable in batches so thin ply wood is more achievable in
one offs.

I trust this helps

Best regards and good luck

Paul Chamberlain

Paul Chamberlain MdesRCA
Professor of Design
Head of Art & Design Research Centre
Director lab4living
Sheffield Institute of Arts
Sheffield Hallam University
Room 9123
Cantor Building
153 Arundel Street
S1 2NU

Tel : 0114 2256771
Fax: 0114 225 6931

On 23/02/2014 21:07, "Orla O'Sullivan"

Dear Mr Chamberlain,
My name is Orla O'Sullivan, I am a Deaf, vision impaired music teacher.
The only one I know of.

Music Therapist Russ Palmer suggested I get in touch with you.

I am a successful music teacher. A short visit to my website at will testify to this.

I am trying to set in motion a new way for teaching music to the Deaf
sensory impaired.

I have in the past taught Deaf pupils. But never had one to stay with
long enough to pass the grade exams. Even though some showed great
promise and talent..

It is difficult to teach the Deaf music. I know this myself because it
took me longer than hearing students to pass the higher grade and get
teaching certificates.

I love music. It is my voice. It is how I really communicate. And I
a passion to bring this skill and appreciation to the Deaf an other
sensory impaired.

I got made a rough model of a music floor myself. It was for teaching
Deaf. It worked.

But the vibrations it emitted were tiny in comparison to a high watt
amplifier. Which vibrates the surrounding air. I am about to
that into a teaching programme for the Deaf, it will also drive a led
flashing light system like a metrenone.

But before I continue I want to find out if the vibroacoustic floor you
developed would be even better.

Could you advise me of this? Could you put it on a scale. Which is
better? .. A vibroacoustic floor, or a high watt amp.. Or anything

Tomorrow afternoon a Department of Education ROI will call to my studio
to assess a proposal I am working on to teach music to the Deaf.

It would be an enormous help to me if I could advise of your system
authority. It is very short notice I know. But any information you give
me would be of great help. And that information will of course properly
sourced and noted to you.

Yours sincerely,
Orla O'Sullivan.
Frankfield Music Studio, Cork.

NB. I am attending that meeting at 4.30pm on Monday the 24th February.

Sent from my iPad

Sent from my iPad

Sent from my iPad

From: orla'o'sullian
Date: 2 January 2012 at 16:49:06 GMT
Cc: , cranky ,
Subject: music for the deaf.. images for the blind

Attention Dean Kamen. 
Dear Mr Kamen,
My name is Orla O’Sullivan. I am a DeafBlind music
teacher and performer (classical piano).
My life’s quest is to bring the world of music to the
world of the DeafBlind, the Deaf,  and the Blind. I have
been teaching music for twenty years, and have had the
happy experience of seeing my pupils attain very high
I have taught Deaf children in the past, but it was difficult, and
success was limited. The reasons for this are varied.. weak    
infrastructural support, time constraints, limited enabling
But my passion for this project has never dimmed. If I, (a
profoundly Deaf and partially sighted person) can learn,
teach, perform, and enjoy music, so can anybody, regardless
of disability.
The big idea is this:
Paint a picture in your mind of someone sitting at the piano.
This someone is playing Consolation, by Franz Liszt, one of the
most beautiful piano pieces ever written.
Think of an audience sitting there in rapt attention, watching
and listening. Then imagine what you would not see if you were
Blind.. and not hear.. if you were Deaf.
I must re-iterate.. I am Deaf, profoundly Deaf, and with only limited
central vision.Yet I teach music. I read with difficulty.. so I know
my vocalubrary is sometimes stilted.
My life-partner, Dan Elliott, is not Deaf, nor is he Blind. But I have
somehow fired his imagination. He and I have come up with an
idea to bring music to the Deaf and Blind in a different way.
That is to see it.. and to feel it.. and in the seeing and the feeling be
able to comprehend how music works. An added bonus is that this
programme will also educate and entertain those with fully enabled
sight and vision.
The concept: The music is playing.. either live or recorded.
What you see is a flat screen tv attached to a boosting amplifier.
The unit is freestanding and tidy.
Preferably it  should be placed on a wooden floor.
The screen is dominated by a music score showing the notes of the
music as it plays. As the music plays each note illuminates a neon  
pulse reflecting the tempo, intensity, and duration of the notes.
Add in different colours for the various chords and you have the
visual concept.
The feeling will come from the boosted amplification reverberating
across the wooden floor. The reverberations will echo the notes being
played. i.e.
You can add other things, like images of the performers, biographies, subtitling..
etc. Also.. it has the potential to teach in an innovative way.
Like this: You are a music student. You load a piece of music into
the device. You are sitting at the piano connected to the device.
You begin to play and the score lights up on the screen.
If you play perfectly you will score perfectly. But if you don’t each
mistake is flagged, and noted.
There.. plain to see, your mistakes, and how to correct them.
We are not able to write the computer programme required to
bring this to life as we do not have the resources. Our research
pointed to you and your organisation as the best candidate to
nuture this project to its full development.
Can you help.
Orla O’Sullivan and Dan Elliott.

See below the link to the renowned flautist Elizabeth Petcu:

Cork Deaf Association
The Cork Deaf Association is committed to the empowerment of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Cork city and county through the provision of information, advocacy and support services. We aim to achieve a more inclusive society, where Deaf and Hard of Hearing people enjoy equality of opportunity, independence and full citizenship.

Irish Hard of Hearing Association
The IHHA is an association of people who acquired a hearing loss after developing their verbal communication skills. They are a small Irish charitable and voluntary organisation who campaign for greater awareness on hearing loss, greater access to services and generate support for each other.

National Council for the Blind of Ireland
NCBI is a not for profit charitable organisation which provides support and services nationwide to people experiencing sight loss. They also provide a range of services to public and private organisations to make sure that their services are accessible to people who are blind and vision impaired.

Deafblind Ireland
Deafblind Ireland is a new organisation being set up by deafblind people, their families and professionals working in this specialist field. It seeks to raise awareness of the uniquely disabling consequences of the combined loss of sight and hearing and to provide a source of support for people who are deafblind and their families and information and guidance to professionals. It also seeks to press for greater understanding of the needs and numbers of people in Ireland who live with deafblindness and to press for improvements in provision of assessments and supports.

Cork City Music College
Our aim is to give our students a love of music, and to provide the highest standards of music education, awareness, and appreciation to students of all standards, ages, and capabilities. With a wide range of instrumental, practical, and theoretical curricula to suit the individual student, our agenda promotes the musically curious to the musically gifted. The College offers the student the lifelong gift of music, and with this the valuable skills of balance, concentration and co-ordination, assets to any individual regardless of their career or faculty.

Elizabeth Petcu
Irish flute player Elizabeth Petcu seeks new ways of exploring and presenting music and her debut solo album, Just Me, captures in essence Elizabeth's true authentic sound through a brilliant interpretation of her favourite repertoire.

Music and the Deaf
We believe that deafness is no barrier to making and enjoying music, and since 1988 we have worked with thousands of people all over the UK encouraging and supporting them in playing instruments, composing music, signing and singing, providing advice and help, setting up a Deaf Youth Orchestra, giving talks, doing signed theatre, concert and dance performances, and much more. Music and the Deaf is run by Paul Whittaker OBE and Danny Lane, who are both profoundly deaf. We're here to help and encourage so do get in touch with us if there's anything you want to know or would like to see.

Christian Martin
A musician, singer, sound engineer, and teacher who recorded parts of Orla's album.

Paul Solecki
Paul helped Orla record and produce her CD and designed this site.

To buy Orla's CD

click here

. Also available at Golden Discs, Cork.

You can also find Orla's CD on sale for €10 in Cork at the Cork City Library, Pro Musica, Cork Deaf Association, and the Cork School of Music.