I recently received a question from a family asking about how they could modify items in their home to be used as assistive technology for their child with low vision. One of the items they had in the house was a music stand, and I immediately started thinking about the different ways I have used music stands as assistive technology, and we went to work brainstorming different ways we could turn their music stand into a multi-purpose low budget assistive technology solution for their child. Here are five ways to use music stands as assistive technology for people with disabilities, with a special interest in low vision.
The Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) defines an assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” The Tech Act also defines an assistive technology service as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.”
By this definition, a music stand can be used as assistive technology for people with disabilities, even if they aren’t traditionally used for tasks related to assistive technology. For best results, I recommend using a solid top music stand, which can be purchased online for less than $40 or borrowed from a music classroom or other venue where music stands would be used such as a performing arts center.
A few of my friends have eye conditions that make it difficult to see objects unless they are held against a solid background that is a contrasting color to the object- for example, one of my friends had trouble seeing what color their earrings were until they rested them on a darker colored background that helped to make the colors pop. Since solid-top music stands are typically a dark color, they can easily provide a background for other objects to rest on so that people can better see the color or other details of an object. I recommend rotating the top of the music stand to a ninety-degree angle so that the stand mimics a table.
Whenever I watch videos on my tablet, I typically have my screen close to my face so that I am able to somewhat see whatever I am watching. Since it can get tiring to hold a screen so close to my face, one of the solutions is to rest my tablet on a music stand and adjust the height accordingly so I don’t have to hold the tablet as much. This can also be a great tool for students who are taking notes from a video, as they can easily reach over to pause the video.
When the family contacted me about modifying items to be used as assistive technology, one of the questions they had was about modifying an item to be used as a positioning aid, specifically to assist with reading from a book. Their child had several different types of books, including ones with enlarged paper, and they frequently had trouble holding up the books to read, or would strain their neck from holding it at an angle to read it on a table. A music stand is perfect for reading physical copies of adapted books, as well as books with larger pages and picture books, as it’s easier for readers to get close to the page without holding their head in one position for long periods of time. However, I would recommend being careful not to lean too much on the stand so that it doesn’t knock over.
For stands that sink under the weight of whatever is on them, I recommend putting an object underneath of the stand to help with the sinking. Items such as a table, stack of books, or otherwise sturdy structures work great, and don’t necessarily have to be fancy- I’ve used a trash can in my college’s arena to support my music stand before!
Another way I have used music stands as assistive technology is to support pages or documents so that I can scan them in with another app. While my music stand might not be my first choice for scanning items, it is still a great choice as the pages don’t fall over easily, and I can adjust the lighting around me more easily as I don’t have to worry as much about shadows from holding my device directly on top of my desk. Some apps and tools I have used for scanning in items include:
For young students who need basic accessible graphics, a music stand can serve as a backdrop for accessible graphics created with painter’s tape or masking tape, as well as magnets or other everyday objects. While there are lots of awesome accessible graphics tools available for creating digital and physical graphics, this is a simple solution that doesn’t require any technical knowledge or fancy equipment- just the ability to copy a basic graphic with tape. Of course, users can also use a music stand to support larger copies of accessible graphics on paper so that a student can more easily reference them.
Some examples of basic graphics that can be created with tape on a music stand include:
While most people don’t immediately think of music stands as assistive technology, they can be a versatile tool when coming up with short-term assistive technology solutions as they tend to be easy to find and can easily be stored in a corner or other discreet location. I hope that this post is helpful for others looking for temporary assistive technology solutions- discovering ways to use music stands as assistive technology was incredibly helpful for me!
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated August 2023
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