“Why are there so many steps?”: Improving Access to Blind and Low Vision Music Learning through Personal Adaptations and Future Design Ideas

Music can be a catalyst for self-development, creative expression, and community building for blind or low vision (BLV) individuals. However, BLV music learners face complex obstacles in learning music. They are highly reliant on their learning environment and music teachers for accommodations and flexibility. Prior research identified the challenges faced by BLV musicians. Yet, limited research has addressed these challenges through the development of technology. Drawing upon the experience and suggestions of 40 BLV professional musicians, amateur musicians and music teachers (including sighted teachers with experience teaching blind students), we identified five themes: (1) Key Challenges of BLV Music Learning, (2) Personal Adaptations to Overcome Music Learning Challenges, (3) Perspectives on Current and Future Assistive Technologies, (4) Contention Between Braille Music and Auditory Learning, and (5) Role of Human Support for Music Learning. Together, these findings outline a path to make music learning more accessible to BLV people. To this end, we describe opportunities for enhanced audio cues for musical communication, recommend integrating vibrotactile feedback to aid music reading and design technology that supports independence and interdependence in music learning.