Glossary of Terms

The following are glossary terms offered by a variety of sources.  Faculty and staff may encounter these terms when developing all types of courses. The glossary of terms offered below is reprinted by permission of  the DO-IT, the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology  Program at the University of Washington, a commonly referenced source for terminology related to accessibility and technology.

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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 aids(s); in the case of electronic resources, accessible with or without the use of adaptive computer technology. Access barrier: Obstruction that prevents people with disabilities from using standard facilities, equipment and resources. Accessible web design: Creating web pages according to universal design principles to eliminate or reduce barriers, including those that affect people with disabilities. Accommodation: Adjustment making a workstation, job, program, facility, or resource accessible to a person with a disability. Adaptive/Assistive technology: Hardware or software products that provide access to a computer that is otherwise inaccessible to an individual with a disability. ALT Tag/Text: Combination of graphical tags to provide alternative text for graphic elements. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): A comprehensive Federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, telecommunications, public services, public accommodations and services. Auxiliary aids and services: May include qualified interpreters or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments; qualified readers, recorded texts, or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals with visual impairments; acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; and other similar services and actions.


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. Braille Labeller: Device used to create raised print or Braille labels to stick on as labels for items


Captioning: Audio transcription of films or videos displayed to make them accessible to people who have hearing impairments. Captions can be “closed”, which allows the user to turn them on or off, or they can be open captions that are always turned on. Closed Circuit TV Magnifier (CCTV): Camera used to magnify printed material on a monitor or can work with computers.


Disability: Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Discrimination: The act of treating a person differently in a negative manner based on factors other than individual merit.


Electronic information: Digital data for use with computers or computer networks, CD-ROMs, and web resources.


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


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Hearing impairment: Complete or partial loss of the ability to hear, caused by a variety of injuries or diseases, including congenital causes. Limitations, including difficulties in understanding language or other auditory messages and/or in production of understandable speech, are possible.


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


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Large-print: Most ordinary print is six to ten points in height (about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch). Large-print type is fourteen to eighteen points (about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch) and sometimes larger.


Major life activities: Functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, and participating in community activities (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Multimedia: Computer-based method of presenting information by using more than one medium of communication, such as text, graphics, and sound.


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Optical Character Recognition (OCR): Machine recognition of printed or typed text. Using OCR software with a scanner, a printed page can be scanned and the characters converted into text in an electronic format.


Portable Document Format (PDF): File format for representing documents in a manner that is independent of the original application software, hardware and operating system used to create the documents. Physical or mental impairment: Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more, but not necessarily limited to, 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-ins: Programs that work within a browser to alter, enhance, or extend the browser’s operation. They are often used for viewing video, animation or listening to audio files.


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 participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).


Reader: Volunteer or employee of a blind or partially sighted individual who reads printed material in person or for audio recording. Relay service: Third-party service (usually free) that allows a hearing person without a TTY/TDD device to communicate over the telephone with a person who has a hearing impairment. The system also allows a person with a hearing impairment who has a TTY/TDD to communicate in voice through a third party, with a hearing person or business.


Screen reader: Text-to-speech system intended for use by computer users who are blind or have low vision that speaks the textual content of a computer display using a speech synthesizer. Examples include JAWS and NVDA. Sign language: Manual communication commonly used by people who are deaf. Sign language is not universal; deaf people from different countries speak different sign languages. 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 hand shape, 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. Specific learning disability (SLD): A disorder of 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. Limitations may 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: A problem 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 and feeding. Some causes of speech and language disorders include hearing loss; neurological disorders; brain injury; mental retardation; drug abuse; physical impairments, such as cleft lip or palate; and vocal abuse or misuse. Speech input/recognition system: Computer-based system that allows the operator to control the system using her voice. Sticky keys: Enables a computer user to do multiple key combinations on a keyboard using only one finger at a time. The sticky keys function is usually used with the Ctrl, Alt, and Shift keys. Simultaneous keystrokes can be entered sequentially.


Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) or Teletypewriter (TTY): Device which enables someone 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 one needs only a basic typing ability to use them. Trackball: Pointing device that uses a ball housed in a socket that contains sensors to detect the rotation of the ball, like an upside down mouse. The user rolls the ball with his thumb or the palm of her hand to move the pointer. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Open or closed head injury resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as 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 or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.


Undue hardship: An action that requires significant difficulty or expense in relation to the size of the employer, the resources available, and the nature of the operation (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). Universal design: Designing programs, services, tools, and facilities so that they are usable, without additional modification, by the widest range of users possible, taking into account a variety of abilities and disabilities. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Universal Design for Learning (UDL) A set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. (National Center for Universal Design for Learning) Universal Design for Instruction (UDI)


Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973: An act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability which applies to any program that receives federal financial assistance. Section 504 of the act is aimed at making educational programs and facilities to all people with disabilities. Section 508 requires that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. This extends to any agency that receives federal funding, including state agencies and public higher education institutions. The areas covered in 508 include: software applications and operating systems, web-based internet and intranet information systems, telecommunications products, video and multimedia products, self-contained closed products and desktop and portable computers. (source: VPAT: Voluntary Product Accessibility Template: The purpose of the VPAT is to assist Federal contracting officials and other buyers in making preliminary assessments regarding the availability of commercial “Electronic and Information Technology” products and services with features that support accessibility. Vendors use this form to self-report and document their products’ 508 compliance. Federal contracting officials and other buyers can then evaluate a vendor’s report of product’s accessibility against the standards. (source: Vision impairments: A complete or partial loss of the ability to see, caused by a variety of injuries or diseases including congenital causes. Legal blindness is defined as visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses, on the widest diameter of the visual field subtending an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.


W3C: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. (source: WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by W3C and used worldwide. Word Prediction software: Predicts ahead words as you type in the start of a word


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