New technologies and their use by blind or visually impaired people, or barriers to their use, suddenly seem to be popping up everywhere I look. Several events recently focused my attention on this specialized aspect of society's headlong rush into the "Age of Technology." Among the current activities in the research department at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), one project involves compiling statistics on technology use by people with visual or other disabilities, sparked by congressional interest in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (P.L.105–394). Another project proposes to refine a tool that assesses the accessibility of fitness centers and their rapidly evolving technology.
For me, the main attention-grabber came on Thursday, February 12, 2004. That day, I did a double take while riding the subway in sardine-can conditions, awkwardly trying to read The New York Times . There, on page G5, was a photograph of a colleague, Bonnie O'Day, who is blind, adorning a substantial article on barriers that cellular telephones pose for visually impaired users as well as signs of progress toward eliminating the obstacles. The article cited AFB's product evaluations in AccessWorldŽ, highlighting the importance of systematic consumer-based assessment of technology to identify and avoid such barriers.
Just days later, I read the articles in this issue of JVIB, preparing to write this introductory note. At first, I was struck by their diversity, in terms of functional areas covered (mobility, reading, and writing), age groups (working-age adults, elderly persons, infants, and toddlers), and impairments (functional blindness, low vision), a range of visual capacities, and people with both visual and hearing impairments.
On second reading, it became clear that even within this diversity, the theme of technology for visually impaired users is pervasive, especially using a broad definition of technology to include measurement instruments. The first two articles present "space age" technologies whose promise in practical application for visually impaired persons is approaching fulfillment. Golledge, Marston, Loomis, and Klatzky report on a device to guide the mobility of people who are blind; Goodrich, Kirby, Wagstaff, Oros, and McDevitt report on a device to assist people with low vision in reading. Both articles feature assessments by consumers of the "usability" of the technology, a reminder that assistive technology, like mainstream technology, needs a "reality check" once the basic engineering challenges have been solved.
Two articles concern "instruments" in the figurative sense; they demonstrate how structured observations can allow standardized assessment of clients' impairment and/or functioning levels, and therefore allow systematic evaluation of interventions. Watson, Wright, Wyse, and De l'Aune describe a tool to measure the writing ability of people with age-related vision loss. Rydberg, Ericson, and Lindstedt describe a tool to measure the visual behavior of very young children. Although less explicitly tied to technology, Leonard and Horowitz's study of hearing impairment among consumers of vision rehabilitation clearly has implications for the design of devices as well as services.
In this issue, peer reviewers of articles submitted to JVIB in 2003 are thanked and listed. My quantitative urge led me to the finding that 145 persons served in that demanding role. That's an impressive number, providing reassurance that for the time being, people are as important as technology to development of the field.
Corinne Kirchner, Ph.D.
Policy Research and Program Evaluation
American Foundation for the Blind
JVIB Guidelines for Contributors
The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) is the international, interdisciplinary journal of record on blindness and visual impairment that publishes scholarship and information and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas, airing of controversies, and discussion of issues.
JVIB invites submissions in the following categories (word counts include references and tables, one double-spaced page equals about 250 words):
Article: Full-length manuscripts on research, theory, reviews of the literature, or practice-based activities. The topics may have far-reaching and broad impact. Articles are peer reviewed. Length: 2,500–5,000 words
Research Report: A shorter format for presenting research results. The main difference between articles and Research Reports is length. In addition, Research Reports may have a more focused or narrower impact than articles and may report pilot studies, research in progress, or studies with a small number of subjects. Research Reports are peer reviewed. Length: 1,000–2,500 words
Practice Report: An opportunity for teachers, rehabilitation specialists, and other practitioners to share information about innovative techniques, strategies, and service delivery. Practice Reports are shorter in length than practice-based articles and may provide more focused information and a less comprehensive discussion of the implications. Practice Reports are peer reviewed. Length: 1,000–2,500 words
Around the World: A forum for reporting on research on programs that are specific to one culture or part of the world and that may not have broader relevance. Around the Worlds are peer reviewed. Length: 500–2,500 words
Comment: A discussion of a timely topic, based on the author&0039;s experience or opinions. Comments are not peer reviewed. Length: 500–1,000 words
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From the Field: A venue for announcing and describing events, programs, initiatives, or other newsworthy items in the blindness field. Submissions should be sent to AFB Press. Length: 250–1,500 words
News and Calendar: Unsigned short pieces announcing new publications, programs, resources, and events related to blindness and visual impairment. Information, such as press releases or announcements, should be sent to AFB Press. The information will not be used in its entirety, but will be used as source material for staff-written items.
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