Have you ever walked through the corridors at VisAbility and heard the beautiful musical notes echoing through the building? Chances are you will be visiting on a Tuesday when the VisAbility band Grand Delusions meets to rehearse. All the band members have some sort of vision impairment including Manny, who lives with retinitis pigmentosa.
VisAbility’s Assistive Technology Officer Emmanuel Lee – known as Manny to his friends – set up the group six years ago.
Rotary award to recognise Manny’s talents
Manny has just received a ‘Shine On’ Rotary Award from the Southern Districts Rotary Club. The award acknowledges exceptional service by people with a disability to the local and wider community.
He’s being recognised for his outstanding contribution to the music group and offering support and encouragement to fellow band members.
“It’s pretty humbling, I’m glad to be of support to others. I love the music group and being part of it.”
Manny Lee – Assistive Technology Officer
Manny was nominated by VisAbility client Stacee Parkinson, a former Shine On award winner.
“He doesn’t just organise rehearsals every week, he acts as a great mentor. Manny is always there if you have had a bad week and need someone to talk to.”
Each Rotary Award goes to someone who’s making a difference and inspiring others. Phil Corderoy from the Southern Districts Rotary Club says Manny is a perfect example of someone spreading positivity among others.
“As part of the selection process, I attended one of the band’s practice sessions. I was able to witness Manny’s enthusiasm and saw how great he was at mentoring others.”
Phil Corderoy – Southern Districts Rotary Club
As part of the Shine On Awards evening, the VisAbility band performed in front of guests.
Music, Manny and living with retinitis pigmentosa
Manny first started playing the guitar when he was at primary school, but he didn’t touch the instrument again until he lost his sight in his late twenties due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
“I was in a pretty dark place when I lost my sight. I’d had a motor accident when I was fourteen and living in Indonesia. Then about ten years later when I’d moved to Australia, my vision started to become blurry. Receiving the RP diagnosis and knowing that I’d eventually go blind was a shock,” he explains.
For two years he didn’t go outside of his home. The turning point came when he picked up his guitar.
“I thought I’d teach myself to play again. It made me realise the therapeutic benefits of music and musical pieces,” he explains.
“It soothes my soul and makes me happy and I forget about everyday stresses.”
Emmanuel Lee – Band Mentor and Assistive Technology Officer
As well as playing bass guitar, Manny also plays keyboard, piano and percussion as well as drums.
Now he’s sharing his musical talents with others through the Grand Delusions band. The band regularly performs at VisAbility events and last year were invited to play carols at the Lions Eye Institute (link opens in new window) clinic. The band also showcased their talents at the Shine On Awards night in Cannington.
“Since I lost my vision, my hearing is sharper, so music is clearer and I can pick up the clarity of pieces, the chords are crisper as well.”
Aside from music, Manny is also talented at technology and has received qualifications from the Independent Living Centre as an assistive technology mentor and blindness product specialist. Living with retinitis pigmentosa hasn’t held Manny back from leading an independent and active life.
“I’ve always been fascinated by technology and in recent years it’s become more accessible. I’m sharing my love of gadgets, and how to use them if you are vision impaired, with others.”
If you’d like to join the VisAbility band that meets on a Tuesday between 1pm and 3pm, please email Manny. Our Assistive Technology Services can support you to use assistive technology to make daily tasks easier.