Glossary of Terms

Individuals With Disabilities
The 2019 Careers for Students With Disabilities Task Force identified a variety of institutions engaged in best practices and promising practices related to students with disabilities.

TAGS: diversity and inclusion, students with disabilities,

Access barriers: Any obstruction that prevents people with disabilities from using standard facilities, equipment, and resources.

Accessible: In the case of a facility, readily usable by a particular individual; in the case of a program or activity, presented or provided in such a way that a particular individual can participate, with or without auxiliary aid(s); in the case of electronic resources, accessible with or without assistive computer technology.

Accessible web design: Creating web pages according to universal design principles to eliminate or reduce barriers, including those that affect people with disabilities.

Accommodation: An adjustment to make a program, facility, or resource accessible to a person with a disability.

Adaptive technology: Hardware or software products that provide access to a computer that is otherwise inaccessible to an individual with a disability.

ALT attribute: HTML code that works in combination with graphical tags to provide alternative text for graphical elements.

Alternative keyboard: A keyboard that is different from a standard keyboard in its size or layout of keys.

American Sign Language (ASL): A visually perceived language based on articulated hand gestures and their placement relative to the body. Nonmanual markers such as facial expressions and movements of the body are also used. ASL is the dominant signed language in North America. ASL is not a universal language; many other countries have their own forms of sign language.

American Standards Code for Information Interchange (ASCII): Standard for unformatted plain text, which enables transfer of data platforms and computer systems.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): A comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services, public accommodations, and services operated by private entities and telecommunications.

Amplifying telephone receivers: Telephone receivers with a volume control built into the handgrip. They allow a person who is hearing impaired to amplify the incoming conversation.

Applet: Computer program that runs from within another application.

Assistance animals: Enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs or simian monkeys to enhance their independence or quality of life.

Assistance device: Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive technology: Technology used to assist a person with a disability, e.g., wheelchair, hand splints, computer based equipment.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A spectrum of conditions that can cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges. Learning, thinking, and problem-solving capabilities range from gifted to severely impaired. Also now includes several different conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger Syndrome.

Barriers (architectural): Some common building standards under both the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Guidelines (ADAAG) that eliminate common physical and architectural barriers. Examples of some architectural barriers may include walkways, 4 feet minimum width; doorways 32 inches minimum clear opening; telephones, highest operable part not more than 48 inches from floor; Bathroom Stalls, not less than 60 inches clear floor space to accommodate a wheelchair turning radius; slopes and inclines, for every one-inch drop between level surfaces, a one foot ramped incline.

Binary files: Electronic files with formatting information that is software dependent.

Brailed books: Books with brailed text, rather than printed text. Most of the legally blind population does not read braille (about 7 to 12 percent of the population use braille as their primary reading mode). Braille requires a great deal of storage space.

Braille: System of embossed characters formed by using a Braille cell, a combination of six dots consisting of two vertical columns of three dots each. Each simple Braille character is formed by one or more of these dots and occupies a full cell or space. Some Braille may use eight dots.

Browser:  Software designed to access and display information available on the web. Browsers may be graphical or text-based. Text-only browsers cannot display images, sound clips, and video and plug-in features that graphical browsers can. Talking browsers are also available for use by people who have difficulty reading text due to a learning disability or visual impairment.

Captioned film or videos: Transcription of the verbal portion of films or videos displayed to make them accessible to people who are deaf.

Captioning: Text that is included with video presentations or broadcasts that enables people with hearing impairments to have access to the audio portion of the material.

Closed circuit TV magnifier (CCTV): Camera used to magnify books or other materials to a monitor or television.

Communication device: Hardware that allows a person who has difficulty using their voice clearly to use words or symbols for communication. May range in complexity from a simple picture board to complex electronic devices that allow personalized, unique construction of ideas.

Compensatory tools: Assistive computing systems that allow people with disabilities to use computers to complete tasks that they would have difficulty doing without a computer, e.g., reading, writing, communicating, accessing information.

Curb cut: Also called a curb ramp, it is a depression built into the curb of a sidewalk to permit passage by a wheelchair. The incline should not exceed a gradient of 1:12 and the flat surface width should be no less than 4 feet wide.

Deaf culture: A set of values, behaviors, history, literary traditions, and art that this is influenced by deafness. American Deaf culture centers on the use of ASL and identification and unity with other people who are deaf.

Deaf/ deaf: Uppercase “Deaf” refers to a group of people who share a language (American Sign Language) and a culture. Lowercase “deaf” is used to refer to the audiological condition of not hearing.

Detectable warnings: A standardized surface feature built in or applied to walking surfaces or other elements to warn visually impaired people of hazards on a circulation path. Detectable warnings consist of raised truncated domes and contrast visually with adjoining surfaces, either light on dark or dark on light.

Disability: Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Dog guide: The dog guide (“seeing eye” and “guide dog” are brand names) undergoes extensive specialized training to assist and alert persons who are blind, deaf, and/or hard of hearing. It must learn basic obedience, to lead rather than “heel,” to avoid obstacles (including overhead objects), and to “work” in stores and elevators, on various forms of public transportation, and when crossing streets, etc. Dog guides are legally permitted to accompany their owners into buildings including all federal and state buildings, hotels, motels, restaurants, grocery stores, airplanes, trains, and buses. To refuse to allow a dog guide entry to any of these places is a violation of the law.

Facility: All or any portion of a physical complex, including buildings, structures, equipment, grounds, roads, and parking lots.

Finger spelling: When no sign exists for a thought or concept, the word can be spelled out using the American manual alphabet. It is also used for titles, proper name, and convenience.

FM sound amplification system: Electronic amplification system consisting of three components: a microphone or transmitter, monaural FM receiver, and a combination charger and carrying case. It provides wireless FM broadcast from a speaker to a listener who has a hearing impairment.

Graphical user interface (GUI): Program interface that presents digital information and software programs in an image-based format as compared to a character-based format.

Hard of hearing: A person with mild to moderate hearing loss. A person who is hard of hearing may or may not consider themselves part of the Deaf community.

Hardware: Physical equipment related to computers.

Hearing aid: A hearing aid consists of a receiver and amplifier of sound. All sounds in the environment are amplified with the same intensity. A hearing aid does not sort, process, or discriminate among sounds. Aids do not correct hearing, but they improve hearing in some people.

Hearing Impairments: Complete or partial loss of ability to hear caused by a variety of injuries or diseases, including congenital defects.

Helper: An external program that can be called up by a web browser to display specially formatted material, such as word-processed documents, spreadsheet documents, or video/ sound pieces. The web browser as a separate application to view or play the file launches the Helper program.

HTML validation: Process that analyzes HTML documents and identifies HTML errors and nonstandard codes.

Hyperlink, hypertext: Highlighted word or graphic on a web page that when selected allows the user to jump to another part of the document or another web page.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): Programming language or code used to create web pages.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP): Communication protocol used by the web to transfer text, graphics, audio, and video.

Image map: Picture or graphic on a web page in which hyperlinks are embedded.

Interpreter: Professional person who assists a deaf person in communicating with hearing people.

Java: Programming language used to create programs or applets that work with some web browsers to include features with animation or other characteristics not available through standard HTML.

Joystick: A device consisting of a lever that allows a pointer to move up, right, left, or down and serves as an alternative to a mouse. It usually includes buttons to enable mouse clicks.

Keyboard emulation: A method of having an alternative device and/or software, such as a switch-based system, serve the role of a keyboard.

Keyguard: A plastic or metal shield that covers a keyboard with holes over the keys. It allows use of a keyboard without undesired activation of surrounding keys.

Large-print books: Most ordinary print is six to 10 points in height (about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch). Large type is 14 to 18 points (about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch) and sometimes larger. The format of large print books is also proportionally larger (usually 8-1/2x 11 inches). This accommodation may be used for individuals with vision impairments or a disability, which affects accuracy in tracking letter to letter or line to line.

Lynx: Text-based web browser.

Mainstreaming, inclusion: The inclusion of people with disabilities, with or without special accommodations, in programs, activities, and facilities with their non-disabled peers.

Major life activities: Functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, learning, working, and participating in community activities (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).

Mobility impairment: Disability that affects movement ranging from gross motor skills, such as walking, to fine motor movement involving manipulation of objects by hand. In addition to those people who are born with a disability, this group includes a large amount of people whose condition is related to age or accidents.

Mouse emulation: A method of having an alternative device and/or software, such a switch-based system, serve the role of a mouse.

Multimedia: In terms of electronic information, any data that are presented through several formats including text, graphics, moving pictures, and sound.

Neurotypical or “NT”: A term used to describe someone not on the autism spectrum.

Onscreen keyboard: See virtual keyboard.

Optical character recognition (OCR): Technology system that scans and converts printed materials into electronic text.

Peripheral neuropathy: A condition caused by damage to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system that includes nerves that run from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.

Physical or mental impairment: Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).

Plug-in: Separate program written to be launched by a specific web browser to display or run special elements in web pages, such as animation, video, or audio.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Sometimes people with PTSD have difficulty adjusting and coping and can get better with good self-care and therapeutic intervention.

Qualified individual with a disability: An individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modification to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).

Reader: Volunteer or employee of an individual with a disability , e.g., visual impairment, learning disability, who reads printed material in person or records to audiotape.

Reading system: Hardware and software designed to provide access to printed text for people with visual impairments, mobility impairments, or learning disabilities. Character recognition software controls a scanner that takes an image of a printed page, converts it to computer text using recognition software, and then reads the text using a synthesized voice.

Recorded books: Recordings for the Blind (RFB), a national nonprofit voluntary organization that is supported primarily by contributions from the public, provides taped educational books, free on loan, to print-impaired elementary, high school, college, and graduate students, as well as to non-students who require specialized reading material in their professions or vocations.

Refreshable Braille display: Hardware connected to a computer that echoes screen text on a box that has cells consisting of pins that move up and down to create Braille characters.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf: The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Inc., a national corporation with more than 50 chapters, was organized in 1964 for the purpose of providing interpreting services to the deaf of America and its trust territories. In addition, the RID has members from other nations. The RID provides certification of interpreters and a grievance process for the clients to file a complaint about a certified interpreter who does not comply with the RID Code of Ethics.

Repetitive stress injury (RSI): A disability that may be chronic or acute and usually is described as pain caused by overuse of extremities, usually hands and wrists.

Scanning input: A switch-based method of controlling a computer. Activations of a switch will bring up a control panel that, upon subsequent switch activations, allow a user to focus in on a desired control or keystroke. Custom scanning layouts can be created for a variety of purposes and programs and may also be used in a communication device.

Screen enlargement: Hardware or software that increases the size of characters and text on a computer screen.

Screen reader: Software used to echo text on a computer screen to audio output, often used by people who are blind, with visual impairments, or with learning disabilities.

Screen resolution: Refers to the clarity or sharpness of an image. For computer monitors, this term indicates the number of dots on the screen used to create text and graphics. Higher resolution means more dots, indicating increased sharpness and potentially smaller text.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act: Legislation that requires federal agencies to develop, procure, and use accessible electronic and information technology.

Sensory impairment: A disability that affects one of the senses.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD): A condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Some people with sensory processing disorder are very sensitive to things in their environment such as sounds or bright lights.

Server: Any computer that stores information that is available to other users, often over the internet.

Sighted guide: A sighted guide is a person who physically assists an individual who is blind, only when that person accepts assistance. When serving as a sighted guide for an individual who is blind, let the person take your arm (right or left depending on the person’s preference), walk about one half-step ahead. The person will follow the motion of your body. When showing a person who is blind to a chair, place the person’s hand on the back of the chair. At times, it may also be helpful to provide a physical description of the physical environment surrounding the person and the route being taken.

Sign language: Manual communication commonly used by those who are deaf. The gestures or symbols in sign language are organized in a linguistic way. Each individual gesture is called a sign. Each sign has three distinct parts; the handshape, the position of the hands, and the movement of the hands. American Sign Language (ASL) is the most commonly used sign language in the United States. Deaf people from different countries speak different sign languages.

Specific learning disability: Disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in difficulties listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, or doing mathematical calculations. Frequent limitations include hyperactivity, distractibility, emotional instability, visual and/or auditory perception difficulties and/or motor limitations, depending on the type(s) of learning disability.

Speech impairment: Problems in communication and related areas such as oral motor function, ranging from simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor mechanism for functional speech.

Speech input or speech recognition: A method of controlling a computer and creating text by dictation. Speech input software is combined with a microphone.

Standard HTML: Version of HTML accessible by all web browsers.

Streaming multimedia: A method of transferring audio and/or video via a network from a server to an end user’s computer. During the transmission, the material is displayed or played on the target computer.

Switch input: A method of controlling a computer or communication device. It is most often used with Morse code or scanning methods, but may also be used for controlling household appliances and related controls. Switches are available in a nearly endless array of sizes, shapes, and activation methods.

Tactile signage: Signs or labels with Braille, raised letters, or textured patterns that can be read tactilely by persons with visual impairments.

Tag: HTML code that prescribes the structure and formatting of web pages.

Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) or Teletypewriter (TTY): A device that enables somebody who has a speech or hearing impairment to use a telephone when communicating with someone else who has a TDD/TTY. TDD/TTYs can be used with any telephone, and the individual needs only a basic typing ability to use them.

Trackball: A mouse alternative that is basically an upside-down mouse. Useful for some people with mobility impairments because it isolates pointer movement from button clicking.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Open and closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, including cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma.

Undue hardship: The term “undue hardship” means significant difficulty or expense in, or resulting from, the provision of an accommodation.

Universal design: Designing programs, services, tools, and facilities so that they are useable, without modification, by the widest range of users possible, taking into account a variety of abilities and disabilities.

Universal design of instruction: The design of instructional materials and activities that make learning achievable by students with a wide variety of abilities and disabilities.

Universal resource locator (URL): Address used to locate a specific resource on the internet.

Virtual keyboard: Software used to emulate a keyboard. A picture of a keyboard is displayed on a computer screen and the user points and clicks on the pictures of keys to enter text.

Vision impairments: Complete or partial loss of ability to see, caused by a variety of injuries or diseases, including congenital defects. Legal blindness is defined as visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses, or widest diameter of visual field subtending an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.

Visual alarms: A flashing light that is placed into a building or facility alarm system. If single station audible alarms are provided, then single station visual alarm signals should also be provided.

Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability that applies to any program that receives federal financial support. Section 504 of the act is aimed at making educational programs and facilities accessible to all students. Section 508 of the act requires that electronic office equipment purchased through federal procurement meets disability access guidelines.

Word prediction: Software that reduces the number of keystrokes needed to type words and sentences. As characters are entered on either a standard, alternative, or virtual keyboard, suggested completions of the word are provided to the user.

See also: ADA National Network Glossary of Terms

Developed by the 2019 Careers for Students With Disabilities Task Force. Primary sources: Rochester Institute of Technology; University of Washington. Posted October 2019.