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100 Years of History

Wherever he went he started things moving, he always knew what to do, and before the sun of his spirit, obstacles melted away. . . .
--Helen Keller (Koestler, 2004)

The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) may exist today because of one man, Charles Francis Faulkner Campbell, the founder of Outlook for the Blind, which was JVIB's first incarnation. Charles Campbell held seven positions in five states between April 1907, when the first issue of Outlook was published, and May 1923, when he turned over the magazine to the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Campbell was undoubtedly aware of blindness from a very early age because of his father, Sir Francis Campbell, who was a blind graduate of the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville and music teacher at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. While teaching music at Perkins, Sir Francis Campbell married Sophie E. Faulkner, a fellow staff member. Because his father was also the distinguished head of the Royal Normal School for the Blind in London, England, Charles, who was fully sighted, spent 16 years of his life among blind children at the school. Young Campbell eventually returned to the United States, where he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1901. Instead of directly teaching blind children as his father did, Charles chose to follow his ideas on curriculum development and how blind children should be prepared for life. Charles traveled the United States with a slide show, "Seeing by Touch, the Practical Training of the Blind," and, in 1907, established a new organization, the Massachusetts Association of the Blind, and with it a platform for his quarterly magazine, Outlook for the Blind, which would remain a constant thread in his life for the next 16 years. He wished the periodical to be a forum for the free and open discussion of all topics connected with work for the blind. At the time, Richard French, a California educator, stated that Outlook was an "active synthesizing agent away from the heat of personal conflict."

Outlook's beginnings

Originally, Charles's sole helper was his wife Wilhelmina, who designed the layout and placement of illustrations of the magazine. The first issue featured a news roundup, a report on the newly formed New York Lighthouse, a passage by Helen Keller, an announcement of the forthcoming convention of the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB), and a survey of Moon type and European institutions for the blind. Thanks to Outlook, proceedings from the AAWB and American Association of Instructors of the Blind (AAIB) conventions were well documented, as was a successful campaign against ophthalmia neonatorum, which spearheaded the establishment of the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness.

The first four issues of Outlook were sent to members of the blindness field at a cost of 50 cents, which soon increased to $1 per year by the end of 1907. For 16 years, Outlook was under Campbell's editorship and in constant need of money, with deficits ranging from $1,000 to $1,200 annually. These were often paid for by the Massachusetts Association of the Blind, as well as by subscription fees. After Charles's wife Wilhemina died, he made the unfortunate decision to marry her sister Mary, whom he soon divorced during his 1918 stay at the Baltimore, Maryland, Red Cross Institute for the Blind, a program that was modeled after St. Dunstan's in London, England for the rehabilitation and training of World War I blinded veterans. (The historic institute changed its name to the Evergreen Vocational and Training School in 1922 when it was transferred to the auspices of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, which was absorbed by the Veterans Administration upon its creation in 1930.)

Outlook floundered during the war years, but Campbell kept it alive by publishing it with the Evergreen Review, the magazine of the Evergreen school. With his third wife, Zelma Leath, Charles Campbell moved to Michigan to head the Detroit League for the Handicapped, after he was passed over for the top job at Evergreen as well as a staff position at AFB (which had been created in 1921 at an AAWB convention in Vinton, Iowa). The gossip of the day hinted that he was publicly confronted by moral outrage because of his third marriage and his outspoken criticism of the inferior educational system for people who are blind in the United States. As a consequence, he distanced himself from the blindness field. He died in 1935 "worn out but not rusted out" as Edward Allen, head of Perkins, stated in the six-page obituary article that appeared in a memorial issue of Outlook in February 1936. Incidentally, at the time of his death, Charles's third wife requested that Outlook's editors omit the existence of his second wife, since it was believed to have been socially irresponsible to have had three wives in one's lifetime. After several negotiations, the editors agreed to do as Charles's wife asked. Since then, Outlook and its successors never again knowingly reported incorrect information.

Outlook changes hands

In May 1923, AFB took over Outlook under the direction of Executive Director Robert B. Irwin and the newly appointed AFB bureau chief of Information and Policy, Charles B. Hayes, who believed that Outlook should be broadened to include material that would also be of interest to "friends of the blind" (individuals who do not work directly with people who are blind). The content of the first issues of Outlook were reflective of the war years and the need for employment by blind persons, updates on international education for people who are blind, pros and cons regarding the establishment of an exclusive college for blind students modeled after Gallaudet University for the deaf, integration with sighted students, convention reports, status of blinded veterans, psychological research, and the infamous "War of the Dots" debate about braille codes.

By 1924, Outlook was published five times a year and the cost for an annual subscription was $5. Important contributors from this time period included Helen Keller, Berthold Lowenfeld, Samuel P. Hayes, Thomas D. Cutsforth, Sir Francis Campbell, and Henry Randolph Latimer, the new executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind and the individual responsible for the creation of AFB. Charles Hayes used the journal as a tool in AFB's campaign of public education that emphasized the themes of hope and encouragement.

By 1927, the circulation had risen to 9,000 copies a year, since subscriptions to Outlook were included as part of AFB's $10 membership fee. During the Depression, the practice of sending Outlook to every member of AFB at no additional cost was discontinued and circulation declined to around 4,000. In 1931, a braille edition was instituted, and a recorded edition became available in 1959. In 1928, the magazine became incorporated.

Name changes and a new direction

The Depression years saw the discontinuation of the use of AFB membership fees, which were $10. Since that time, the circulation of the journal has averaged approximately 4,000-5,000 subscriptions per year. In 1942, when Outlook was combined with Teachers Forum, a publication AFB jointly published with Perkins, it became clear that the field was interested in reading substantive professional material. Before being combined with Outlook, from the years 1928 to 1937, Teachers Forum was the published result of an "experimental program in education" at Perkins School for the Blind. The politics surrounding the search for a new superintendent for Perkins and lack of funds were the reasons this joint publication ended in 1951.

Since AFB-related efforts were central at that time to much of the professional progress taking place in the blindness field, the readership began to think of Outlook as a platform for the interests of AFB only. In 1951, when AFB hired a successor to follow Robert B. Irwin, the new executive director, M. Robert Barnett, was especially interested in the journal's editorial policies since he had a background in professional journalism. Outlook became New Outlook for the Blind in 1951 and discontinued listing Teachers Forum as part of its title. The number of issues of New Outlook grew from 4 to 10 times a year. It was not until 1965 when AFB decided to publish its organizational news in a new publication, the AFB Newsletter, that New Outlook was elevated to the status of a professional journal in the view of the blindness field.

In the history of the journal, change of format often accompanied change of substance and frequency of issues published per year. Campbell's Outlook was book size (6 × 9 inches). Between 1923 and 1935 the cover featured a color illustration of an angelic-faced woman, typical of the art nouveau style of magazines of that time period. In 1951, along with the change in the title, the New Outlook cover was revised and, in 1964, the trim size was enlarged to 8 1/2 × 11 inches with a more modern style of cover design and page layout.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the journal, along with the field of blindness, underwent professionalization in many directions and covered a full spectrum of topics relevant to the somewhat liberal issues found during the decades of the 1970s and 1980s; for example, sex education, career education, women and visual impairment, and computer technology. By 1974 JVIB contained many of the current features, including research and practice articles, comments and letters, book reviews, news, and a calendar of events, as well as an Around the World section and evaluations of products for the blind.

The editorial advisory board for the journal was established in January 1955. The early board could not have imagined the controversy that was sparked in June of 1977 when the editorial advisory board advised the journal's editors on the dramatic name change of the journal from New Outlook to the title it still holds today, Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness. The title was selected after a prolonged and painful committee meeting in which Natalie Barraga, both a member of the advisory board and a contributor to the journal known for her landmark work in the subject area of low vision, insisted on removing the word blind from the title. Dr. Barraga believed that the term visual impairment described people with low vision as well as those who are blind. She finally agreed to keep the word blind as the last word of the new title of the journal in the hope that it would soon be omitted and the title would become the Journal of Visual Impairment. This anticipated title change has yet to happen.

Incorporation of scholarly research and practice

There was a time when AFB believed that the research being conducted in the field was of such great importance that it merited a publication devoted to the topic of research alone. The result was a series entitled The Research Bulletin, which was published by AFB's Research Department over a period of several years. This series was discontinued in 1977, when AFB embraced the concept that research must be translated into practice so that it can be used by blindness professionals, effecting another major change in the content of JVIB. To facilitate the practical application of research, abstracts were written for each article that guided the reader to make the connection of how to apply, in practical ways, the research findings of the article. The year 1977 also marks the time when JVIB instituted an in-depth, scholarly peer review process.

These many changes to the journal were well received by the field, as was the introduction of annual special issues on important topics that were a primary means of calling attention to new subjects or neglected ones. Career education, a special topic first featured in 1973, was again discussed in a special issue on career development that was published in December 1985. The topics selected for special issues give the reader a sense of the field's progression in the last 25 years. Early special issues of New Outlook examined the themes of career education (1973), sex education (1974), blind women (1975), and assessment (1975). Incidentally, assessment was deemed to be of such critical importance to the field that it was also the topic of a 1975 special issue of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) publication RE:view. The JVIB special issues are listed in Box 1.

JVIB becomes JVIB

The next major changes for JVIB came in January 1994 with the first use of the acronym JVIB on the cover page. With that change came additional changes in trim size, cover design, and binding. At this time, JVIB became a two-part, journal--one featured research articles and the other, the News Service, provided news from the field--and was published 10 times a year. The two parts of JVIB combined in 1999.

By the mid-1990s, AFB's publications program instituted many changes aimed at meeting the information needs of the field. JVIB was published 12 times a year, and, in line with other professional journals, was moved in a more field-based direction in 1998 with the appointment of its first external academic editor in chief, Jane N. Erin of the University of Arizona, and associate editor, J. Elton Moore, of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. Since then, JVIB has had as its editor in chief the late Alan J. Koenig of Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Duane R. Geurschat of the Maryland School for the Blind and Johns Hopkins University. The field has also seen the journal change in format, content, and focus with the addition of research and the removal of the departments Washington Summary and Product Evaluations to their own publications, Words from Washington and AccessWorld, respectively.

Volume 100 and beyond

All these many years after its creation, JVIB remains the blindness field's journal of record, and what a record it has been. As JVIB publishes its 100th volume during 2006, it has seen the readership evolve from solely those who read print to those who read braille and audiotape and now, in keeping with the electronic age, to those who wish to read it on AFB's web site. JVIB has been not only an American journal, but an international one as well. Since as early as 1954, JVIB had a foreign news editor, William Fisher, Jr., and reported on best practices and trends around the world. Today, 20% of JVIB's readership is made up of people from foreign countries.

JVIB has had a long relationship with the field's professional membership organization AER, as well as AER's founding organizations AAWB and AAIB. Over the years, JVIB has reported various conference proceedings and has been offered as a membership benefit to AER members. Most of all, JVIB has remained the primary journal of the blindness field for a century, with a loyal readership and a who's who of blindness leaders as its authors and advisors. It has remained a platform for research and best practice as well as information and controversy. In so doing, JVIB has been true to its mission, set by the Editorial Advisory Board in April 1993, to be "the international, interdisciplinary journal of record on blindness and visually impairment that publishes scholarship and information and serves as a forum for the exchanging of ideas, airing of controversies, and discussion of issues" (JVIB, 1994). Happy Birthday, JVIB!


JVIB. (1994). In this issue. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 88(1), 3.

Koestler, F. A. (2004). The unseen minority (p. 540). New York: AFB Press. (Original work published in 1976).

Susan Jay Spungin, Ed.D., vice president, International Programs and Special Projects, American Foundation for the Blind, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001; e-mail: <>.

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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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