As swathes of the United States continue to recover from the aftermath of recent hurricanes Henri and Ida—and as the nation tracks the movements of Hurricane Sam and Tropical Storm Victor—an article entitled, "The Value of Orientation and Mobility in the Preparation, Response, and Recovery of the 2017 Hurricane Season in Puerto Rico," by Kevin McCormack, in the upcoming September-October 2021 issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB), offers some reflections on the skills that help people who are blind or have low vision have a better quality of life following such natural disasters.
When travel routes are altered and even one's own home environment has had to change suddenly because of structural damage, the findings of this paper show how the better a person's orientation and mobility (O&M) skills are, the better their quality of life is following the significant disruption posed by a catastrophic storm. In the article, Dr. McCormack states, "Post-disaster life presented mental health challenges, however, the usage of O&M training helped to curb its effects. For study participants, the greater the acquisition and practice of O&M, the greater their well-being."
It is not often that the concerns and needs of people with disabilities are addressed or considered in the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of a disaster. Dr. McCormack explains in the paper, "The approach of the current study was to make the voices of people with visual impairments central." In this article, you can read the first-hand accounts of many individuals with visual impairments, living in both urban and rural areas, about the effect these hurricanes had on their lives and what strategies they used to obtain drinking water, safely travel and carry food back to their homes, and help community members during the time period when Puerto Rico's infrastructure was still being repaired and many were waiting for a governmental response. The article will soon be available to JVIB subscribers and members of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) in the “Online First” section of the Sage Publishing Website. If you do not have access to JVIB, you can recommend that your library subscribe to the journal.
Dr. McCormack's article cites a work by Good, Phibbs, and Williamson, "Disoriented and immobile: The experiences of people with visual impairments during and after the Christchurch, New Zealand, 2010 and 2011 earthquakes," a ground-breaking article that was published in JVIB in 2016. The lead author of that article, Gretchen Good, of the School of Health Sciences at Massey University in New Zealand, is serving as guest editor of the forthcoming JVIB 2022 Special Issue on Disaster and Emergency Preparation, Response, and Recovery and People with Visual Impairments.
Call for Papers
The special topic of this issue was selected because of the disruptions every individual has experienced related to the coronavirus pandemic, but especially the disruption of services, lack of access, and many other barriers to daily life and health care that were faced by people with visual impairments across the lifespan over the past two years. We hope that the articles generated by the call for papers for this issue will form a foundation that will result in changes for the better for all people when the next disaster occurs.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, examinations of:
- Preparation of federal governments for disaster response related to people with visual impairments
- Patient advocacy and access to information in hospitals and at testing and vaccine centers during disaster
- Contributions of people with disabilities to disaster and emergency planning, response, and recovery
- Instruction modifications for young children, school-age students, adults, and orientation and mobility clients during disasters
- Accessibility of federal, state, and local emergency alert systems online tools, applications, and forms during disasters
- The effect of disasters on older people with visual impairments, including those who reside in medical facilities, care homes, or nursing homes
You can read the complete call for papers and suggested topics for that issue here: www.afb.org/publications/jvib/jvib-authors/calls-papers#SpecialIssue2022.