When Claire McGlew graduates as a music teacher from The University of Western Australia on Tuesday 1 April she will be the first blind person to do so. And her guide dog, Swanee, will be right beside her when she does because he has been with her throughout her studies at UWA.
Claire, who grew up in Dandaragan, has 10 per cent vision but this hasn't stopped her from successfully completing a Bachelor of Music Education.
Claire set out to become a classical singer.
"But I went to the National Braille Music Camp when I was in second year at UWA and got to teach some children, which made me realise that I wanted to teach," she said. "I understand that kids don't like sitting down and being quiet, because I'm the same!"
Claire began playing the piano when she was five years old and has since taken up the viola, saxophone and bass guitar.
UWA's Nicholas Bannan, Associate Professor in Music Education, was Claire's teacher, supervisor and mentor and took her into the University's inaugural Winthrop Singers group, of which he is director.
"I'd never had a student with Claire's needs before, so all of us - Claire, me, the other Music staff and the UniAccess staff - were all working in ways that were new to us," Professor Bannan said. "We had to work out methods of teaching that would be fair to Claire and to the other students."
Claire travelled to Beijing and around WA with the Winthrop Singers and has enormous gratitude for the choir members and for all her friends in the School of Music for the hours they spend going over music with her and helping her as much as they could.
She is one of more than 3,800 students who will receive their degrees in 11 ceremonies in Winthrop Hall over the next few weeks, starting tomorrow.