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Neuro rehab insights

BPM Rehab delivering accessibility for all

How the power of DJing is transcending barriers and teaching new skills and knowledge

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Technology can be transformational, when utilised correctly by experts within their field. It can enable access to skills and knowledge, that would otherwise not be possible. Therefore, technology can break down barriers and level the playing field for individuals across a variety of disciplines (Trayner, 2023).

When these values are embodied as the ethos underlying a rehabilitation service, the outcome is an extraordinary programme that is accessible to all, despite cognitive, physical, or geographical limitations. 

A common misconception about DJing is that it requires heavy, expensive equipment, which must be physically transported between gigs, at great difficulty to the DJs themselves. However, the digital revolution has made DJing much more accessible, with digital equipment that can be tailored to individual needs (Trayner, 2023).

Expertise can elevate this equipment further to overcome limitations and make DJing accessible to almost anyone. These adjustments can include reducing the degree of motor involvement needed to operate equipment or reducing the cognitive and motor demands of DJing.

This means that learners can gain skills much more rapidly and experience the immediate gratification of mastering a new art form (Smart et al., 2019). This is particularly important after learners have experienced acquired brain injuries, as it can already feel as though the losses outweigh any gains made (Muldoon et al., 2018). 

The tutors and specialists at BPM Rehab want to challenge this narrative, and give learners the opportunity to overcome barriers, resulting in a sense of pride and achievement in their own abilities. Often the learners that attend the rehabilitation programme, predominantly acquired brain injury survivors, have participation limitations imposed on them as a result of their conditions.

The programme utilises the expertise of tutors and suppliers, with decades of experience in their respective fields, to overcome these limitations. This approach is multi-faceted including accessible studios, home visits, an accessible learning zone, visual adaptations, physical adaptions, specialised equipment, and immersive technologies. 

Accessible studio environments

The accessibility adaptations begin at the start of the learners’ journey with BPM Rehab, by ensuring that they have a suitable environment to practice their skills. The programme has access to a soundproof, accessible studio at the School of Electronic Music in Manchester, which can be adapted to meet the learners’ individual needs, whether their desire is to master music production, composition or DJing.

Alternatively, DJing tutors can travel to learner’s homes for sessions, utilising their expertise to establish an effective and creative environment for lessons. This is often a great way to build confidence in a comfortable environment, with opportunities to progress onto professional events and exciting activities, where the learner can build their social skills (Muldoon et al., 2018), such as the annual Brain Bootcamp hosted in Manchester. Similarly, online lessons are available through Zoom video conferencing, ensuring there are multiple angles to capture both the learner and tutors DJ controllers. BPM Rehab programmes are also delivered around the UK via a network of music production and DJ schools.

Learning zone 

As part of the BPM Rehab programme, both the learner and tutor have access to the ‘Learning Zone’, containing supporting documents for learning inside and outside of lessons. The Learning Zone is accredited by AQA and has a variety of accessibility settings to meet all needs, including text, video, and audio options, materials to suit a variety of learning styles, visual material to support content, and many more. 

Visual adaptations 

The BPM Rehab programme has many suppliers with years of industry experience, who provide learners with state-of-the-art equipment including specialised digital music players for DJing. Tutors within the programme have utilised their expertise and existing technology from suppliers, to customise hardware for visually impaired learners.

Traditionally, DJ equipment comes in black, which learners with visual impairments may struggle to see, therefore a colour scheme can be applied to the equipment to meet the individual needs of the learner. This involves customising the hardware (physical equipment) using specific colour schemes for all faders and dials to match the frequency responses of wave forms. Following this, experts can customise the interface of all production and DJing software to map to the hardware, including customising the colour scheme of wave form displays, inverting software to display a higher contrast view for the learner, changing text size and spacing, and incorporating voice activation.

Alternatively, experts can completely build the user interface from scratch, to precisely meet the users’ needs by repurposing existing solutions designed for uses such as daytime DJing, with the goal of ultimate accessibility for the learner. 

Physical adaptations 

In instances where learners have limitations with mobility or dexterity, traditional DJing controllers must be altered to maximise the learners’ output from available movement.

Within the BPM Rehab programme, a learner who was not able to use their hands to DJ instead conducts DJing lessons with their feet. To make this possible, physical adaption to an existing controller was mapped to each specific function available on the production software, allowing the equipment to be used in the same way as conventional DJ controllers.

Challenges of interoperability between existing DJ software and the adapted controller were overcome by tutors employing their expertise. Following this intervention, tutors feel confident that they can map any midi software to adapted DJing controllers. 

Specialised equipment

The team at BPM Rehab pride themselves on utilising the latest technology to level the playing field for all of their learners.

One such technology is the CMPSR award-winning joystick-controlled midi instrument that makes music creation simpler with features such as the ‘always-in-key’ function and built in chord and scale engines for creators of all levels. The simplified interface eliminated intricacies of traditional musical instruments and MIDI controllers addressing challenges that learners may face with conventional approaches.

CMPSR offers a user experience similar to traditional computing applications and gaming design and is therefore geared towards today’s musicians. The CMPSR is just one of the solutions accessible to learners at the BPM Rehab programme focussed on user experience. 

Immersive Technologies 

Future plans to break down any barriers of geographical location, include integrating the technology from TribeXR into BPM Rehab programmes. TribeXR specialise in virtual reality (VR) DJing software, ultimately allowing the learner to control a DJ setup of their choice in VR whilst achieving all learning outcomes within the Learning Zone. This integration will mean that the BPM Rehab programme will be accessible to learners across the world. 

If you know of a young person that would benefit from any of the interventions described, or alternatives that you are keen to explore, please get in touch with the BPM Rehab team – https://www.bpm.rehab/contact. 

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