The Observatory

Musician strikes the right chord with his new home – VisAbility

One of the biggest milestones in your life is buying your first home.

For Richard, who has Fraser syndrome, it’s an achievement that means more than most. Richard has a rare recessive gene disorder, has just 6% vision and uses a hearing implant (a bone-anchored hearing aid).

At 20-years-old, he’s bought an apartment with his brother in the northern suburbs of Perth, and is hoping to move in later this year. He’s currently shifting his belongings across from his parents’ home and starting his journey to become more independent.

Buying an apartment

Richard and his brother Brad, who also has Fraser syndrome, have been clients of VisAbility for many years. Richard is receiving orientation and mobility support from therapists, so he can get used to the new surroundings around his apartment and the layout of the flat itself.

“It was my brother’s idea to buy a place together. We were both after the same thing, a place close to a train station, ideally a three-bedroom apartment, so we could rent out a room to help us financially. We’ve done a huge amount of renovation to our new apartment and it is now feeling like a home,’’ Richard explains.

He’s had to make major sacrifices to get to this stage, but he’s proud to be moving on with the next stage of his life.

“I saved like mad and worked hard to have a reasonable deposit. I don’t drive or drink, so that helped. We’ve had to make a few home modifications to the apartment, so it’s more suited to us. We’re taking out the fitted gas stove and replacing it with an electrical one.’’

With support from VisAbility, tactile markings will be placed in the kitchen area, and the lighting will be enhanced throughout. It’s located in the centre of Joondalup, so close to nearby shops and entertainment.

Studying classical music

A naturally gifted musician, Richard’s a student at Perth’s prestigious Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Richard says moving his piano into the apartment will be no mean feat.

‘’Of course that’s coming with me. I couldn’t be without it!’’

Richard was only three-years-old when he started piano lessons. His mother had noticed him tapping at on a friend’s piano and so bought him a Fisher Price child’s keyboard. It was obvious, even at that early stage, that Richard had natural talent.

‘’I love the piano, and my preferred genre of choice is classical music. You can interpret and experiment the pieces of music in many different ways by increasing the tempo and playing on the piano softer or louder, there’s so much opportunity with classical music.’’

His degree is a Bachelor of Music – Classical Performance majoring in Piano.

Transcribing his coursework into Braille

All his music and coursework needs to be transcribed into Braille. It means the scores have to be completed way in advance of a new semester. He’s grown up with Braille music.

‘’When I was younger, I went to Braille Camp. I met like-minded people and practised Braille skills. I use a Braille Sense Polaris which is an intuitive Braille notetaker. It’s designed specifically for the blind, and has stock apps from Google including Google Docs, Chrome, Hangouts, and YouTube.’’

While you might think Richard would like a future career in music, he’s also just as passionate about languages and travel.

‘’Learning a language is something I’d encourage others to do. You can understand so much about the world through if you speak in the native language. You hear what’s in their heart rather than in their head,’’ he explains.

While COVID-19 has put an end to immediate travel plans, long term he’d like to explore more of the world.

As for future career options?

‘’Ideally I’d like a job which incorporates both music and languages. Moving into this apartment will undoubtedly make me more self-reliant and will open up greater freedom and confidence. I’m excited at what the future my hold for me.’’

To find out more about how VisAbility and the service we provide including Orientation and Mobility, visit

(Originally published at