Buying a home – Richard’s road to independence

How old were you when you bought a home and started your journey of independence? The average age of a first-time home owner is on the increase with most buying in their thirties, but for Richard is entering the property market at just 20-years-old.

A talented musician and undergraduate, he’s purchased a flat with his older brother Brad. He’s currently dividing his time between his parents’ home in Wanneroo and the flat in central Joondalup. He hopes to move in permanently later this year.

Richard sits on a garden chair and is holding his dog
Richard’s moving into a flat with his brother Brad

Richard, who has Fraser syndrome, a rare recessive gene disorder, has just 6% vision and uses a hearing implant (a bone-anchored hearing aid). He’s currently receiving support from our Orientation and Mobility team to develop greater independence, so he can use his white cane around his flat, which is in the Joondalup area. Our therapists from Orientation and Mobility Services are trained to work with people with limited vision.

What motivated Richard to live independently at such a young age and where did his love of classical music come from?

What motivated you to buy a flat?

It was my brother’s idea originally. Brad is two years older than me and wanted his independence. He felt it was time to move out. He also has limited vision. We were both after the same thing, a place close to a train station, 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 home.

It’s been a real learning curve as we saved like mad to buy it. It taught me how to budget. I went without to be able to put down a deposit. I don’t drive and I don’t drink, so that saves me money.

Did you have to make some home modifications?

Yes, definitely because my brother Brad also has limited sight and now has a Guide Dog called Jaxx (link opens in new window). The flat had a fitted gas stove, so we will be installing an electrical one. We will also be improving the lighting and installing some tactile markings.

A VisAbility Orientation and Mobility Officer has been helping me to get familiar with my surroundings, so I can find my way around the environment and be aware of any permanent obstacles that may be in my path.

I’ll be sad to leave my animals behind. I have three dogs and two cats but they’re well-settled into my family home, so they’ll stay. A big task for sure will be moving my upright piano into the flat.

When did you know you had musical talent?

I was only three-years-old when I started piano lessons. Even earlier, people noticed that I was musical. A family friend of ours apparently saw me tapping things and said something like “You know that’s quite musical right?”. My mum then bought me a Fisher Price keyboard and it went from there. I also have perfect pitch, meaning I can play any note and can recognise its pitch, I also don’t need any reference notes, which is how most trained musicians hear their music.

Richard playing his piano in his bedroom
Richard is a keen pianist and practices every day

Why do you love classical music so much?

I know at my age, you’d think I’d prefer rock music right? From an early age, I have been acquainted with the genre. Most of the music I learned at that time was of a classical nature and so I’ve grown to have a real appreciation for it and its proponents. With classical music you can experiment and interpret the pieces in different ways. There’s the opportunity to play it faster or slower so you can experiment with the tempo, or softer or louder, where you can experiment with the velocity.

I’m now at the  Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (link opens in new window) studying a Bachelor of Music – Classical Performance majoring in Piano. It’s all about rehearsing and getting it right. I’d say 90% of a music degree is practising on your instrument. I’ve no doubt that music will always be part of my life.


Richard sits outside in the garden area with his Polaris notetaker
Richard uses a Braille Sense Polaris for his studies and at home

At university and at home 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.

Tell us more about Braille music?

My music and my coursework has to be transcribed into Braille. It means I need to be very organised as the scores have to be complete way in advance of a new semester. When I was younger I went to Braille Camp over East. I was able to meet like-minded people and practice the skills i learned in my Braille class. I forged really great friendships and this has gone on to encourage my independence.

Just before quarantine began, I was fortunate enough to be able to go and visit a friend of mine in Melbourne. There were numerous times where I took public transport on my own and it is an experience I won’t forget, which has enhanced my independence. Read our tips for getting public transport if you live with low vision.

You’re also keen to learn languages, why?

After my music degree, I’d like to complete either a Master’s in music performance or an undergrad Spanish language degree. I enjoy both the Spanish music and culture. Latin americana music is my favourite because it’s intricate and elegant especially salsa. Learning a language has to be one of the most beneficial things you can do throughout your life. You learn so much about the world through the eyes of foreign language speakers and speaking in their language means you will hear what’s in their heart rather than in their head.

As for the future. I’m not sure exactly what I’d like to do for a living but, I hope it would involve music and languages in some form. I’m well aware it will be difficult to find a good job, but I will try my best to make that happen.

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