Introducing Information Technology and Disabilities
Late last summer, several members of EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information), began discussing the possibility of creating an electronic journal devoted to applications of information technology by individuals with disabilities. EASI already had a number of information-disseminating activities underway, including two electronic discussion lists and a directory on the St. John's University gopher (see Zenhausern and Holtzman's article, this issue, _ITD_). In addition, EASI has a regular column in _Library Hi Tech Newsletter_, published by Pierian Press. With general guidance from Norman Coombs, EASI Chair, and technical support from Dick Banks, adaptive technologist at the University of Wisconsin, Stout, and Dr. Bob Zenhausern, professor of psychology at St. John's University, a core group of EASI members began "meeting" on a private listserv established to coordinate all aspects of this fledgling journal.
The first order of business was to select an editorial board, composed of experts in education, librarianship, campus computing, as well as rehabilitation and job accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Assembling the editorial board was easy enough; virtually everyone asked to participate accepted the invitation. Once the private listserv, EASIPUB, became operational, members of the editorial board were able to work out details through meetings held via e-mail. In this article, I will describe the goals of _Information Technology and Disabilities_, at various points asking for your participation and input for future issues; if _ITD_ is to achieve its goals, we need your help in the form of news items, notices of meetings and new or forthcoming publications, research-based and case study articles, as well as ideas for articles or theme-based issues.
The first issues addressed by the editorial board included title, frequency of publication, intended audience and scope of coverage. After considerable debate over several alternatives, _Information Technology and Disabilities_ was chosen as the title and work began on designing this international, multidisciplinary electronic journal. It was decided early on that the journal would appear quarterly, and that our target audience would include users of adaptive technology as well as the many service professionals who are interested in applying new and emerging technologies in their various fields; the latter group includes librarians, educators at all levels, rehabilitation professionals, campus computing and disabled students' service personnel, and others who wish to realize the potential of information sources and technologies by individuals with disabilities.
Scope of Coverage
Each of the groups mentioned above, from librarians to academic computing staff, has at its disposal a number of professional journals providing timely information on a wide variety of topics in their field(s) of coverage. Scattered throughout this body of literature are the few items of interest to people who need to know what's happening in the world of adaptive technology, accessible information and other vital news of increasing importance to individuals with disabilities. _Information Technology and Disabilities_ intends to address issues relating to information technology in its broadest sense. While our focus is largely upon practical uses of technology by individuals with disabilities, _Information Technology and Disabilities_ will, in future issues, hopefully include historical, sociological, and legal analysis and commentary.
One of the issues we encountered early on, and which at this writing is still an issue on the editorial board's agenda, is the technical knowledge level we should expect the majority of our readers to have. While it is expected that most will have basic computer literacy, we do not expect that the majority have anywhere near the technical expertise of, say, a professional computer programmer. In response to our first call for articles, we received one highly technical paper which describes in detail a computer scientist's work in the area of access to machine- readable documents. That article is being revised, and has not gone through the process of review. The editorial board is leaning toward including such material in _Information Technology and Disabilities_. We are working with authors to make their work as accessible as possible, but there will be articles in _ITD_ which will be comprehensible only to a limited audience.
While some articles may be extremely technical, others will appeal largely to the novice. We will attempt to provide overviews of specific technologies, written in plain language and intended as information pieces for those whose experience is minimal. For example, "What is a TDD and How Does it Work?" might cover the history of telecommunications for the hearing impaired, describe the current state of the technology, and discuss ADA requirements. Whether highly technical, very basic, or somewhere in between, each of the feature articles in _Information Technology and Disabilities_ will be annotated in the Table of Contents, alerting readers to the article's level of technical sophistication.
In addition to articles, _Information Technology and Disabilities_ will have a number of regular "departments." These sections will present major news of interest, including notices of new discussion groups, publications, conferences, seminars, and more. Editors of these sections are identified in the table of contents; please keep them informed of news as you hear it (or as you make it!).
Anyone who subscribes to one or more listservs is aware of the meaning of the expression "information overload;" with each quarterly issue, it is our intention to present the MAJOR news of national importance. Think of _ITD_ as a quarterly, selective listing of news obtained from listservs, professional associations, and just as important if not more so, from _ITD_ readers themselves.
In closing, I would just like to say that _Information Technology and Disabilities_ will only be as good as the articles submitted to it for publication. Please, if you have work in progress, or if you're willing and able to do an article on a topic suggested by the editors, contact me, preferably via e- mail.Tom Mcnulty
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012