An Introduction to the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research

By Fredric K. Schroeder, Chief Editor


Throughout history the blind have been confined to a lesser role, a subordinate role, a passive role in society. Blind children and adults have been viewed as unable to learn, unable to work, unable to live as others. But why is this so? Are the blind unable to speak for themselves, unable to advocate for themselves, unable to participate in the social and economic mainstream? Or has society’s ill-informed, misguided beliefs about blindness limited their opportunities and constricted their ability to live as others? Of course the two are not necessarily dichotomous: the blind as fully able versus the blind as fully dependent. Indeed, no segment of society can claim full, unlimited ability. By the same token, no segment of society should suffer abject dependence. Yet the blind are by no means the only minority to face low expectations and their devastating consequences, the arbitrary denial of opportunity inflicted upon them by an unknowing, misguided majority.

Minority status is at the heart of the problem. The dominant society assumes itself to be the standard by which all must be measured. The minority, by virtue of its difference, falls somewhere outside the norm, outside the familiar, and therefore, is judged to be inferior in equal measure to its identifiable difference. Only recently has the concept of diversity emerged as more than a platitude, a gentle nod to the less able, and the less fortunate.

Research related to blindness has had a long history of imprecise, over-general design rooted in stereotype and tradition yielding dubious outcomes. This is not because the field has been dominated by unskilled researchers nor is it due to a conscious attempt to limit the opportunities for blind people. Indeed, the motivation behind research in blindness has come from just the opposite: the hope of contributing to the body of knowledge that will expand opportunities for blind people, children and adults. Yet blindness research, like other social science research, is inextricably linked to social attitudes about blindness and blind people. The very questions we ask, the assumptions implicit in our research methodology, while as objective and free from preconception as we can make them, exist within a social context.

The purpose of the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research is not to deny the social context, sanitize our research from human contamination, human preconceptions, and beliefs, but rather to acknowledge the impact of social attitudes and assumptions and to work to counterbalance low expectations with a positive view of blindness. Through our collective efforts, we will bring together the best in research, professional practice, and life experience to expand opportunities for blind people of all ages. We do not have all the answers and likely never will; but by applying the very best in our skills, imagination, and, most of all, our collective will we can and will make a difference. We invite academic researchers to lend their efforts in support of new and emerging opportunities. We invite practitioners to share their tried and true strategies to further full integration. We invite blind people and parents of blind children to lend their personal experience to help catalogue what has worked, what has failed, and to push the boundaries, challenge the familiar, and work together to forge a new and bright future for blind people everywhere.

This journal broadens the community of practice by firmly welcoming those who have much to contribute but whose expertise has been sought too little. As this new vehicle for discourse has been created by the blind it offers the hope and encouragement that is the National Federation of the Blind. Understanding, collaboration, and opportunity will be fostered by those who lend their voice to this new venture in blindness, innovation, and research.

The Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research is copyright (c) 2014 to the National Federation of the Blind.