Eighth-grader Diego Alvarez loves to sing opera and Mexican music. Before entering Sarah Martinez’s choir class at Hernandez Middle School, Diego didn’t think he’d ever be able to learn how to read or write the music he loves to sing. Diego is visually and functionally blind.

Courtney Foreman, teacher for Students with Visual Impairments, and Martinez assembled a team of resources, including the campus Librarian and District Braillists. To help Diego write music Hernandez Middle School Librarian, Wendy Tucker, made a set of 3-D music symbols including notes, rests, and clef signs. Using the 3-D items, Diego replicates writing music by placing the music notes and symbols correctly on a tactically-printed music staff that was created with a “Pictures in a Flash” (PIAF) printer. The Braillists also printed the song lyrics and used a PIAF printer to create tactile sheet music, providing Diego the opportunity to use his braille skills to read music.

Because visual impairment is unique to the individual and abilities to see, or not, vary; often Martinez and Foreman find themselves in uncharted territory on how to meaningfully instruct Diego.

“We’re not sure how we’re going to teach him sometimes, so we just try something to see if it works,” said Martinez. “If everyone else in the class is doing it I want him to do it too. His might look different, but I want him to do the same work.”

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) choir competition is in the Spring. Students must be able to read and write music to compete. “His goal, which becomes our goal, is to get him to go to UIL,” said Martinez.

“Diego’s independence and socialization have flourished,” said Foreman. “Yes, he has different needs, but he wants to be with the other students, he wants to be like the other students.”