Why do some music teachers with sight find it hard to work with someone who is blind or vision impaired, but it is not hard for a blind or vision impaired music teacher to work with someone who is sighted.

What are they scared of or worried about? Could it be that they are thinking how he or she can see what I’m doing or could they be worried about whether he or she can even see the material that is provided to them or if it is in the correct format to help them. I used to worry about this, as well as whether or not to tell students beforehand that I am blind, thinking that they won’t want to come to lessons.

What encouraged me to overcome my challenges was comments from workshop participants, such as: “it’s sort of been two-way learning”, “he’s got to learn to teach us while we’re learning from him”, and comments from a leader who taught me who said that I don’t need to tell people about my eyesight because they want to learn the ukulele and that it should not matter.

The strategy that I use when I teach a student includes providing them with some rules, such as not to use any visual cues when communicating with me. They must say yes or no rather than nod or shake their head if they don’t understand what I’m saying.

The other types of strategies I use are getting the students to repeat back what I am saying and what I am showing them. This gives me an understanding that they are learning from me. I also provide my students with documentation on what I am teaching them and I also ask my students what other formats they would like the information sent to them in, for example email, text message or audio file.

Imagine that I have up to eight people at the one time in a ukulele workshop. How can I remember everybody’s names and their location in the room? These are challenges that I also face but I find ways to work around it by using adaptive technology such as recording people’s voices and names when performing an exercise around the room, or I would have people say their names when they are asking a question.

What do I do if there is a participant in my workshop who is having more difficulties and is not keeping up? The strategies that I would use for this includes asking the students to encourage each other and to help each other out. If it looks like someone needs a hand, this is a great way for people to interact with each other and learn with each other by having that person sit beside somebody who is learning well. Another option is to chat with them afterwards and ask them if they would like a few private lessons, as some people find it better to learn in a group environment and some find it easier to learn in a private environment at their own pace and at their own time.

Another strategy I would use when passing around documents for people to learn in my workshops is to spread them out on the table and have people take from them or pass them around to each other.

Not everyone can read chord charts, so in this situation I would write out the chord charts in text instead of image, for example when teaching a finger position, I would write C-major: put your third finger on the third fret of the A string. I have found this method to work quite well with people who are blind or vision impaired because if they have adaptive technology such as a screen reader, it will read the text to them, as opposed to chord charts that cannot be read by screen readers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of music books that are not accessible for screen readers.

If you are a guitar or ukulele teacher and you want to teach people chords and lyrics, the best book I have come across so far is named 250+ Ukulele Songbooks. See the example of song lyrics and chords in accessible formats at my resource page or for another accessible format explaining chords this way, click to listen to Ukulele MP3.

When I was studying TAFE’s Certificate III in Music in 2010, a teacher was showing me how to do guitar chords, but by the way he was showing me he must have thought that I could see his fingers or that I could recognise the notes he was playing in the chords. Not everyone has such an ear for music, but they are still capable of teaching others. The teacher was asking if I could see his fingers instead of explaining which position and strings his fingers were on. I felt this was a waste of time.

On one occasion, I wanted to study a unit which was also part of the course named Sound Editing, and instead of allowing me do that unit and trying other methods, the teacher automatically assumed that the screen reader would not work with sound editing software, without even attempting it. As a result, I was unable to complete some units in this course. A few years later I contacted another campus to complete these units after researching some software which would allow me to complete them at home. The software I found was GarageBand for the Apple Mac. It worked well as it has a built-in screen reader, but the funniest thing was that the computer I was supposed to be taught on was also a Mac, which shows that the teacher did not have enough awareness of the softwares available to him.

For me to get to where I am today, I had to face society’s misconceptions head on. While doing this I thought of various methods that worked best for me as a vision impaired ukulele teacher. You never stop learning new skills. If you are a music mentor and would like to talk more about accessible formats for your students, you are welcome to either contact me or send me an email and I will gladly speak with you.

I teach ukulele privately, online, or as group workshops. For more info please visit my website.

Author: Phillip Chalker



hi all
this article mentions me in it.


19 April 2017

Virgin Australia has become the first airline in the Asia Pacific and the second airline in the world to introduce an in-flight entertainment (IFE) user interface for passengers who are blind or have low vision.

Designed to make the customer experience more accessible for vision impaired passengers, the new interface increases accessibility to IFE content through simplified screen layouts, larger icons and voice prompts.

Developed by globally recognised IFE innovator CoKinetic Systems, the interface is available on Virgin Australia’s entire fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which feature a seatback entertainment system and will be rolled out on the Airbus A330 fleet in the first half of 2017. The Boeing 777-300ER aircraft fly from Australia’s east coast to Los Angeles, while the Airbus A330 primarily fly between Australia’s east coast and Perth.

Virgin Australia General Manager, In Flight Experience, Tash Tobias said: “We are determined to ensure travel with Virgin Australia is enjoyable for all of our guests and we are delighted to introduce this new user interface for guests who are blind or have low vision.

“Throughout the development process we consulted with disability advocate, Phillip Chalker, to create a system that enables more passengers to enjoy movies, music, audiobooks and TV shows and we thank him for his invaluable assistance.

“This new technology also allows vision impaired guests to access important flight information such as the time and distance to their destination,” Ms Tobias said.

Vision Australia General Manager for Advocacy and Engagement, Karen Knight said, “We congratulate Phillip on the outcome his advocacy efforts have helped achieve. In addition, we commend Virgin Australia for taking steps to improve the accessibility of their IFE system. Many people who are blind or have low vision enjoy travel and travel widely, and by Virgin Australia continuing to improve the accessibility of its IFE technology guests have the opportunity to enjoy the latest entertainment.”

This feature is the latest addition in an ever increasing focus on accessible entertainment for all guests. Virgin Australia recently introduced a broader variety of assets suitable for hearing impaired guests with subtitled and closed-captioned movies and TV, a growing range of non-narrative documentaries and a handpicked collection of reading materials.

Virgin Australia’s wireless IFE system is available on its Boeing 737-800 and Embraer E190 fleets, and is accessible to vision impaired guests via screen reader software available on guests’ own devices.


Media contacts:
Libby Armstrong (Virgin Australia) 0400 814 573 libby.armstrong@virginaustralia.com

Vanessa Sandhu (Vision Australia) 0418 937 327 vanessa.sandhu@visionaustralia.org

This media release has been sent and authorised by Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Ltd ACN 36 090 670 965 of 56 Edmondstone Road Bowen Hills, Qld Australia 4006. Nine news Gippsland interview

What I Like About Apple Products, From a Blind Person’s Perspective

What I Like About Apple Products, From a Blind Person’s Perspective .

Ever since I was first introduced to Apple products back in 2011, my life has changed for the better. When you buy an iPhone, it comes with voice over right out of the box. So, all you need to do is let your fingers do the walking, and your iPhone do the talking. People who are blind or vision impaired say that an iPhone can be expensive – this is not the case for people living in Australia. If you were to add up the price of all the apps that an iPhone comes with, and what you can add to it for a low cost, you would be amazed at how much money you would be saving when buying these devices separate from Blind Agencies.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to carry too many things around and worry about the devices you own getting lost or stolen, just to do what you want them to do? Would you like to make it easier on yourself when studying or going to work? Then carry one device like an iPhone or iPad, which would be less to carry and with voice over turned on you have all these devices in one. Talking Calculator, Calendar and Navigator; voice activated, alarm clock, timer and organiser, plus other third party accessible apps.
The iPhone also comes with a personal assistant named Siri who can help you do a variety of tasks, such as launching an app, timing your meals, setting alarms, reminding you of your next appointment
and lots more. However, the disadvantage of Siri is that she does not work without an internet connection.

If anyone is not aware that Centrelink has a payment called Advance Payment, which is a loan that is available which is paid back with deductions from your Centrelink payment for about 6 months. Once the loan is repaid, you may apply for another. This is a great way to help you get equipment that you need. You can contact Centrelink to find out how much you can get but I usually get the full amount of $800 and if I still cannot afford the device I would either add more to it, or put it away somewhere until you go for another one.

As a community music worker who deals with people’s money, my iPhone helps me in ways that you can’t imagine.
How does it help me? When people pay for my workshops I can use my iPhone to check whether they have given me the right money by using an app named NantMobile Money Reader. The voice memo app on my iPhone allows me to record people’s names for a workshop, and then transfer their names or contacts back to the computer when I get home.

I also use my iPhone as a musician to tune my guitar or Ukulele with an app named Talking Tuner by HotPaw Productions. Furthermore, my iPhone also helps me in a workshop to film or take photos for promotional or marketing material.
Having an iPhone can relieve a lot of stress as well. Do you get worried when you want to identify money in your wallet or purse and become concerned about whether people have given you the right change back? If you have been to an important business meeting, and after that hard day of listening to all the lectures and people rambling on, well don’t stress. Just launch the voice memo on your phone and record it and listen to it again on the go in the car or when relaxing, or even burn it to cd.
Do you go shopping and try to explain to the shopping centre staff what product you are after and they have no clue on what you’re talking about? Well why not try an app for your iPhone named Looktal Recogniser? Simply take a photo of the product, and show the staff what you are looking for. This app is also good if you want to recognise the food or products in your cupboard. For example, I take a photo of my seeing eye dogs Frontline flea treatment, wave it around over the products in your cupboard and it will read it out to you.
The use of Smart phones such as Apple iPhones are also allowing people who are blind or vision impaired to live their life independently, allowing them to identify products, objects, and items. Some examples are determining the colours of clothing, providing reminders for when to take medications and doctor’s appointments and also times of meetings. These can be set up on phones manually or with the help of Siri. Siri can also assist with other tasks, such as posting on Facebook or Twitter.

People who use Braille devices to read and write with can also sync their braille devices with their smart phone, such as BrailleNote and BrailleEdge, so users can update their calendars, check their mail, and perform other actions.

Flatbed scanners can be very expensive, and not accessible for people who experience vision impairment, but can receive help from an app named KNFB reader. The app converts printed and written text into speech which can be used in mini environment situations such as schools or work situations. There are also a lot of free or cheap apps that do other tasks such as simple things like magnifying text and pictures on CD covers or DVD covers; used to read recipes and receipts, or read a book or local newspapers. But if people don’t want to use a magnification app then they have a choice to use the settings which are provided under the accessibility settings on smart phones.

Owning an iPhone also allows people to listen to Audio Books and podcast which is download and streamed directly to their Device which they can listen to in their own time at their own leisure.
I also like the Apple iTunes Store and app store because it gives me the opportunity to store all my music, games, movies and more in one area on my iPhone. Having them all in one area on my
iPhone is great because I don’t need to worry about music which has been purchased from a retail store getting scratched or damaged. I also don’t need to worry about having too many storage cabinets to store all movies or CDs on which has also been purchased from a retail store.
The other thing I like about the Apple iPhone and other Apple devices is when having updates for apps or software sent to us automatically because we don’t need to worry about searching around for software on disks just to do an update. (C) copywrite By Phillip Chalker 2017

SUPER UKERS The Traralgon Journal Monday, 9 June, 2014

A Traralgon aged care facility was delighted to hear the delicate sounds of ukeleles recently.
Led by ukelele teacher Phillip Chalker, eight ukelele enthusiasts took to O’Mara House to entertain its residents.
“We played a good few classic numbers from songs like ‘How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’,” Mr Chalker said.
“There were 30 people watching and they were all clapping so they obviously liked it and would like to have us come again.”
Mr Chalker is vision impaired and despite this, now runs ukelele classes for beginner levels to advanced.
“After doing this, I’m confident in teaching one-on-one private lessons now anywhere in the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Chalker said.
“If any nursing homes would like to have me perform solo I don’t mind, or if any organisations would like to have me perform with my ukelele.”
Mr Chalker thanked Morwell Neighbourhood House for providing a space for his lessons.

Super Ukers – photo taken by Tom Morrison LV Express 2014

Phillip Chalker and his merry band of Ukers performed at O’Mara House aged care facility recently.
Photograph Tom Morrison

”questions and answers to my second seeing eye dog Roddy Puppy carer

What Made  you become a Puppy Carer for a Working Seeing eye dog?
I have always loved dogs but just having a pet seemed rather selfish so I wanted to have the joy of a dog and at the same time give something back into the community.  Since both my parents were declared legally blind in their sixties, Seeing Eye Dogs was a natural choice for me.

What would  you say to someone considering being a Puppy Carer??
Go for it.  It is a lot of work and plenty of frustration but the rewards are beyond awesome.

when you become a puppy carer for the first time was there any Rules you need to follow?
Of course.  The job of being a guide for a vision impaired person is terribly important and the training has to be strict, standardized and absolutely spot on.  These dogs also have to pass a very stringent ‘Public Access’ test and there is zero tolerance for bad behaviour.

How often did a trainer come out to assess you to see how the process was going as a puppy carer?
Back when I first joined SEDA in 2001, we didn’t even have an office in Queensland so a trainer flew up from Melbourne every two months and visited all the carers.  These days, with the merger with Vision Australia and our headquarters in Coorpooroo, and resident trainers, we are visited once a week when the pup is 8-16 weeks, then fortnightly from 16-26 weeks and thereafter  monthly until the pup graduates from Puppy Development and goes into Formal Training.

Was all bedding Foods and vet Bills Payed for as a Puppy Carer?
Yes, all the expenses were paid by Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.

How did you Manage when Giving up the puppy at the end of the period?
Naturally, I cried my eyes out but at the same time I was thrilled and excited that another puppy was well on the way to becoming a working guide.

phillips Playing his own tune Link Disability magazine Article

by Rebecca Somerfield
Link Disability Magazine

Phillip says the ukulele is a great way of bringing people together.

Musician Phillip Chalker hasn’t let the deterioration of his eyesight hinder his music career. The talented guitarist, who is legally blind, leads community music workshops in Victoria’s Gippsland region, teaching participants how to play the ukulele and sing.

“I have been singing and playing guitar since the age of 18 and started playing the ukulele in 2012,” says Phillip.

“As a legally blind performer I love the ukulele as it’s a small instrument which is very portable and easy to get around.”

The ukulele – rather than guitar – is also a plus when it comes to Phillip’s Seeing Eye Dog, Roddy, as it doesn’t obstruct his ability to communicate with his dog.

“With a guitar I don’t have a free hand to give my dog commands, however with the ukulele I can just fling it over my shoulder and off I go.”

Phillip says though the ukulele can be difficult to master, with the right support and encouragement the instrument can be learnt by people of all ages and abilities.

“If they are taught by someone who is blind it encourages them to learn because they think ‘if he can do it, we can’.”

Despite the success of Phillip’s workshops his musical journey hasn’t been without setback.

“I have been legally blind since the age of five and am currently tackling the impact of further significant deterioration of my eyesight,” says Phillip.
“During my most recent formal music studies at TAFE this setback resulted in elements of the course not being offered to me because of (a lack of) adaptive technology to suit my eyesight and needs.
“I have had to identify, secure and learn new approaches that will work for me as a musician. I am determined to ensure that this does not permanently impact on my career and am currently building my skills as a performing and recording artist.
“To do this I work with a one-on-one mentor, Jane Coker, at my own pace from home with my own equipment. My Mac Book Pro comes with a built-in screen reader called ‘voice-over’ which has helped me in a big way.”
Phillip is also a passionate disability advocate, campaigning for improved disability access on V-line trains, for audio description services at West Gippsland Arts Centre and the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and for the introduction of accessible inflight entertainment systems on Virgin Australia. He also volunteers with Community Music Victoria, encouraging people to form music groups in their area.
For more information on Philip and his workshops visit http://www.latrobemusic.com

article can also be found hear

Playing his own tune > December 2014 > Read Issue > Link Magazine

Phillip’s Crucial Companion news paper Article

Crucial Companion
By Stephanie Charalambous

Feb. 17, 2014

Phillip and Roddy
Phillip Chalker and ‘Roddy’ are calling on the community to get behind Seeing Eye Dogs Australia Photograph: Tom Morrison

Phillip Chalker will never forget the moment he met his new seeing eye dog Roddy late last year.
“I was lucky to get to pick out of two dogs, but this dog wouldn’t give the other one a chance to say hello to me,” Phillip said.
“I got a big lick right on my face and two paws up on my shoulder, as if to say ‘pick me, pick me’.”
The black Labrador is Phillip’s second seeing eye dog following Kransky, who retired due to arthritis.
“Kransky kind of had the cheeky temperament, licking girls’ legs and all that,” Phillip chuckled.
“Roddy, when he’s not in a harness, has got a really boisterous child in him.”
The Traralgon musician has retinitis pigmentosa and can only see shadows out of one eye.
He said seeing eye dogs had brought him independence, freedom and confidence.
“I wouldn’t be out and about and doing things if I didn’t have my seeing eye dog,” Phillip said.
“Canes can’t help you like a dog can.”
As well as generally guiding Phillip, two year-old Roddy helps him to find bench seats and even his favourite stores, following some positive reinforcement.
“You go up to the store, say the name of the store and give the dog a treat and by the third time, the dog’s got it,” Phillip said.
“Eventually they know half of your town.”
Phillip is encouraging the community to get behind Seeing Eye Dogs Australia, to help others who are blind or have low vision find their own canine companion.
Each seeing eye dog costs about $35,000 to train and there is currently more than a year-long wait list for people in need.
SEDA is calling for regular donations through ‘puppy sponsorship’ to support its breeding program.
To make a donation or become a puppy sponsor, visit SEDA or phone 1800 037 773.