Deaf-blind music teacher scales the heights to win hidden hearing award
on 23/10/2012 00:00:00
Ms O'Sullivan started teaching deaf children at a local primary school in the mid-90s. Yesterday, she was among nine people with hearing loss commended at the Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards in Dublin.
She became disabled after contracting double pneumonia as a six-week-old. A drug saved her life but damaged her sight and hearing. When she was a baby, her mother noticed she reacted to certain kinds of music.
"She placed my fingers on the piano keys and realised that I could feel the vibrations," said Ms O'Sullivan, who was six when she received her first formal lesson, and loved it.
"I teach music in a standard normal way. The difference is in how I prepare. I memorise everything, even the questions that are normally asked by students."
Ms O'Sullivan said that, until recently, there was no technical aid suitable for her to read a music score and play simultaneously. "So it was a very long and tedious process for me to learn a piece of music. It meant I had to memorise thousands of notes and composition directions from the music score.
"It was my love of music that gave me the patience and determination to do it. But it was exhausting."
Ms O'Sullivan, who is mother to 6-month-old John Amadeus Elliot, said the awards showed the deaf and blind community what could be achieved.
"Disability is an obstacle not a barrier. People with a disability should never give up doing what they want to do. They might have to work harder like me, but it is worth the effort."
It is the second year of the Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards, a joint initiative between Hidden Hearing and the Irish Deaf Society.
People nominated a "hero" who made a significant contribution to Irish society, their community, workplace, family, or through sporting excellence.
* Workplace award: Orla O'Sullivan, a deaf-blind pianist and teacher who has developed unique methods to teach music to deaf children.
* Social contribution award: Dominic McGreal, Dublin, a volunteer with numerous deaf organisations over the last 20 years.
* Media award: John Cradden, a freelance journalist from Co Kildare who has written extensively on being deaf and on issues within the deaf community.
* Youth award: Marcus Conroy, nine, from Co Roscommon, a keen sportsman who is hard or hearing. He has won medals in judo, football, and swimming.
* Grandparent award: Gene Barry, from Birr, Co Offaly, whose daughter recently died from cancer. He and his wife are helping their son-in-law to raise their young grandson and have raised €17,000 for cancer care.
* Sportsperson award: Eoin Nolan, from Co Wexford, one of the country's leading water polo players, who has been deaf since birth.
* Student award: Killian McDonnell from Dublin who recently became the first deaf student with Down Syndrome to pass his Leaving Certificate.
* Organisation award: Irish Deaf Women's Group that has been bettering the lives of Irish deaf women over the last 20 years.
* Lifetime achievement award: Des O'Callaghan from Dublin who has spent his helping the deaf community in Ireland.