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A Look Back

Editor's note: In April 1907, the first issue of Outlook for the Blind appeared, a magazine devoted to "the discussion of matters pertaining to the welfare of the blind." This landmark publication evolved until May 1951, when it was renamed The New Outlook for the Blind. The New Outlook continued to be published until January 1977, when it was combined with the AFB Research Bulletin to create the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB). What better way to start our celebration of JVIB's long and illustrious history than with the actual statements of purpose that graced the first issues of Outlook for the Blind and JVIB. In these statements are revealed not only the origins of the literature of the field of visual impairment and blindness, but the evolution of the journal from a "forum for free and open discussion of all topics connected with work for the blind" to "an interdisciplinary journal of change" to foster the exchange of information between researchers and practitioners. These historic reprints are the first offerings in celebration of this, our centennial year. As the 100th volume of the journal continues, each issue will provide historical, sometimes whimsical, and thought-provoking glimpses of the development of the literature of the field, as well as essays commemorating this celebration.

Our purpose

In this magazine the Publication Committee offers a forum for the free and open discussion of all topics connected with work for the blind. Especially do we hope that the problems and difficulties which confront us all, whether in the school, the shop, the home, or the community, will be considered here, and that those who have the experience and expert knowledge on these subjects will give us the results of their work and observations, that all may benefit thereby. We have no theories of our own to advocate, no projects to exploit. Our only desire is to be of service to the great cause of helpfulness to the blind.

"Come, let us reason together."

The need

Perhaps no better statement can be made of the need of such a publication as this plans to be than is found in the following quotations. The first is taken from a letter by Supt. Edward E. Allen, of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind at Overbrook:

The workers for the deaf in this country publish two excellent reviews, and one reason why their work is on a more scientific basis than ours is because of these two organs of communication. If our work could have such an organ, as well edited and as comprehensive in its scope, it would grow in unity and in strength. For one, I shall heartily welcome a magazine published in ‘the interests of all the blind.'

The next quotation is from a recent letter from E. J. Nolan, LL.B., the able blind lawyer of Chicago:

I am very much pleased to learn that you are about to issue a magazine to be printed in ink, which is to be devoted to the discussion of matters pertaining to the welfare of the blind. The problem of finding remunerative employment for blind people is so great and difficult of solution as to require the combined wisdom, experience, and cooperation of all those engaged in the work to make even a little progress, and this can much more easily be secured through the aid of a journal in which the views of workers in various parts of the country may be exchanged, experiments described, and results compared. The embossed magazines serve a good and useful purpose, but they do not pretend to deal with the details of the operation of institutions, and the majority of those connected with institutions for the blind cannot use them because they do not read the point systems. The annual reports of superintendents are for the most part made to persons who are not interested in the routine work of the institution and who desire only general statements of results, and these documents are usually of but little value to those who are seeking accurate information concerning the work. There is, therefore, an urgent need of a periodical that all can read and which shall be so conducted as to command the respect and interest of all the workers, and in which every side of the question may be fairly presented; and he who succeeds in establishing it shall have rendered a valuable service to the cause.

Earlier publications

For nine years Henry J. Wilson, of England, secretary of the Gardner's Trust for the Blind, has published a very valuable quarterly entitled, The Blind. From the last issue we reprint, through the courteous permission of Mr. Wilson, the article entitled, "A Visit to Some of the Principal Continental Institutions for the Blind."

In 1891 the alumni of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind undertook the publication of a magazine called The Mentor, which was devoted exclusively to the cause of the blind. This was published for four years under the able management of J. W. Smith and the late Martha W. Sawyer, and proved to be of great value. Since the discontinuance of The Mentor, the need has been increasingly felt for some American publication, in ordinary type, in which those interested in the blind could discuss their progress and welfare. The present publication is the beginning of an attempt to meet this need.

It seems almost unnecessary to state that a magazine of this character, even with the articles and editorial work contributed, cannot be self-supporting. The Massachusetts Association for Promoting the Interests of the Blind is prepared to assume for the present the publication of such a means of communication between the various institutions and organizations devoted to the interests of the blind, as an experiment ; but, by so doing, the Association does not pledge itself to continue the work for more than one year. It is therefore hoped that all who appreciate the value of such a medium will send the editor the names of those whom they know to be interested in the blind, and that they will feel moved, also, to supplement their subscription fees by donations to the publication fund.

"Name this child"

Every one who has had the happy experience of welcoming a newcomer to the family will recall what a difficult matter it was to settle upon a name for the little stranger. Grandmamma wished this, great-uncle preferred that, mamma did not like either, and all the rest of the family connections to the forty-second cousin had decided opinions as to what it should and especially as to what it should not be.

But naming a magazine is even more difficult than naming a baby. There may be, must be even, many children of the same name, but the copyright laws interfere in the case of periodicals, and compel us to strive after originality. In our effort to secure the proper title for our bantling, we have held many anxious conferences and sought the counsel of friends and connections from far and near. Thus that well-known friend of the blind, Dr. F. Park Lewis, of Buffalo, writes us:

I was so pleased, on the receipt of your letter, to hear that our long wished for project of a magazine for the blind was to be realized that I was tempted immediately to write you my congratulations and express my entire readiness now and at all times to lend you any cooperation in my power, and I do now; but when at the end of your letter you ask that I suggest a name for the baby, you give me pause. It is at once the most important and the most difficult part of the undertaking. It should be expressive, comprehensive, concise. I am not quite sure that I like any of those proposed, and I am not at all sure that I could suggest anything better. Whatever name may be chosen, we all probably will wish it was something else without being able to suggest any improvement. I have thought of ‘Lucifer.' He was an angel of light, indeed, but later of somewhat ill repute, and moreover a light bearer would be of little use to eyes that could not see the light. Indeed, it is not, as I understand, to be a journal for the blind, but for those who are to guide, to lead, to direct the blind. How would the ‘Leader' do, or the ‘Guide'? These names are certainly not startlingly original, and I am not sure that I like them as well as I do your last suggestion.

When it was finally decided that the name "Outlook for the Blind" expressed both poetically and literally the purpose of our work, we wrote that friend of good causes, Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott to ask if we might borrow one of the plumes of The Outlook in this manner. His cordial reply was: "No objection to your use of the Outlook for the Blind. Good luck to you in all your work."

Note to readers

With this issue, we introduce the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, succeeding two other periodicals, the New Outlook for the Blind and the AFB Research Bulletin. The Journal's purpose will continue to be that of the Outlook when it was established in 1907: to serve as "a forum for the free and open discussion of all topics connected with work for the blind." To fulfill this purpose even more effectively, we plan to draw contributions from a wide variety of disciplines, and to publish material based on scientific research as well as seminal concepts arising from practical experience.

The last 20 years has seen a burgeoning of professional training programs for practitioners, which in turn has brought about radical changes in practice. A parallel development is the proliferation of research into many aspects of visual impairment.

For a long while it appeared that the two groups--researchers and practitioners--were following separate roads. The Research Bulletin was established in 1962 to meet the needs of researchers, who represented many different interests, while the New Outlook primarily served the practitioners.

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need for exchange of information between the research and practice communities. It is also becoming clear that the groups overlap, that much of what is called "practice" may be seminal research, and that good research is aware of current practice, and leads to better practice.

The AFB Publications Advisory Committee discussed these questions at length and in January 1976 proposed the establishment of a new publication that would incorporate the best features of both the New Outlook for the Blind and the Research Bulletin, as well as new features not then in either periodical.

During 1976, the staffs of the two publications began planning the new journal. An inaugural Editorial Advisory Board was appointed and met in November 1976.

This first issue of the Journal is not exactly what the editors or the Editorial Advisory Board envisaged. But then no periodical is ever static. A journal is ever-evolving; it has a personality of its own that changes to meet the needs of its readers, to reflect new knowledge and new points of view, and to respond to new generations of professionals.

This issue is the first step in an evolutionary process that will transmute the existing New Outlook and Research Bulletin into a journal of quality and prestige.

During these first months of 1977 we will be selecting a panel of referees--specialists in their respective fields--who will examine all articles submitted to the Journal before the editors make the final selection. The articles that appear in the first few issues of the Journal will not have gone through such an extensive review process. By autumn we hope that all articles published will have been reviewed by one or more referees, who will be asked to review submitted papers with the following criteria in mind:

  • Does the paper make a contribution to new knowledge relevant to the field?
  • it a subject of concern or controversy to the field and does the article shed new light on the subject?
  • it is an article about practice, does it clearly report results and conclusions, or describe techniques that can be replicated by others?
  • it is a research article, is the research scientifically conducted and reported, and does the paper represent a significant contribution?
  • it is a review article, is it systematic and does it represent a synthesis of lasting value or offer a new or different conclusion?
  • If it is a speculative or theoretical article, is it closely reasoned and does it draw upon all the current knowledge, pointing toward specific conclusions?

The Journal is particularly interested in publishing new contributions to knowledge, and "think pieces" that arise from practical experience and warrant further exploration or examination. An interdisciplinary journal succeeds to the extent that it reports findings in such a way that they are understandable to fellow professionals who may not be specialists in the area reported upon. We intend the Journal to be that kind of publication.

We view the new Journal as an instrument of change, one that will excite, disturb, and perturb both readers and contributors. During the coming months we will report our activities, plans, and difficulties in creating an interdisciplinary journal of change. We will welcome your comments as we proceed.

--The Editors

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The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB)--the international, interdisciplinary journal of record on blindness and visual impairment that publishes research and practice
and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas, airing of controversies, and discussion of issues--is copyright Copyright © 2017 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.


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