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The concept of information and questions of users with visual disabilities: An epistemological approach

Jirí Tomáš Stodola (Support Centre for Students with Special Needs, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 2 September 2014



The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the functionality of the particular epistemological schools with regard to the issues of users with visual impairment, to offer a theoretical answer to the question why these issues are not in the center of the interest of information science, and to try to find an epistemological approach that has ambitions to create the theoretical basis for the analysis of the relationship between information and visually impaired users.


The methodological basis of the paper is determined by the selection of the epistemological approach. In order to think about the concept of information and to put it in relation to issues associated with users with visual impairment, a conceptual analysis is applied.


Most of information science theories are based on empiricism and rationalism; this is the reason for their low interest in the questions of visually impaired users. Users with visual disabilities are out of the interest of rationalistic epistemology because it underestimates sensory perception; empiricism is not interested in them paradoxically because it overestimates sensory perception. Realism which fairly reflects such issues is an approach which allows the providing of information to persons with visual disabilities to be dealt with properly.

Research limitations/implications

The paper has a speculative character. Its findings should be supported by empirical research in the future.

Practical implications

Theoretical questions solved in the paper come from the practice of providing information to visually impaired users. Because practice has an influence on theory and vice versa, the author hopes that the findings included in the paper can serve to improve practice in the field.

Social implications

The paper provides theoretical anchoring of the issues which are related to the inclusion of people with disabilities into society and its findings have a potential to support such efforts.


This is first study linking questions of users with visual disabilities to highly abstract issues connected to the concept of information.



This work is supported by the project OP VK CZ.1.07/2.2.00/15.0225.


Tomáš Stodola, J. (2014), "The concept of information and questions of users with visual disabilities: An epistemological approach", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 70 No. 5, pp. 782-800.



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