There are many words and terms used in a discussion about disability in the U.S. Some of these words and terms are listed here, along with a brief explanation.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

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.

Access barriers: Any 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: 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.

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.

American Sign Language (ASL): A visually perceived language based on articulated hand gestures and their placement relative to the body. It also uses facial expressions and movements of the body to convey information. ASL is the dominant signed language in North America, but is not a universal language; many other countries have their own forms of sign language.

Assistive Technology: Technology that is used to assist a person with a disability.

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.

C

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

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD):  The international human rights treaty of the United Nations that protects the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. 167 countries have ratified CRPD, but the United States has only signed the treaty. Article 24 of CRPD affirms the right of persons with disabilities to inclusive education “on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live”.[i]

D

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 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.

E

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA): The principal U.S. federal law that funds primary and secondary education in the United States. It was most recently reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015.[ii]

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): The current U.S. federal law that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and funds national primary and secondary education in the United States.[iii]

F

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.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): A U.S. federal law that protects the privacy of children’s educational and personal records and gives parents the right review their children’s records and request changes under limited circumstances.[iv]

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that school districts provide a “free appropriate public education” to every student within their jurisdictions.[v]

H

Human Rights Model of Disability: A model of disability which holds that barriers within communities and societies, rather than personal impairments, exclude persons with disabilities from access to inclusive education.[vi]

I

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): An evaluation of a child that is used to determine specialized needs and is conducted at parents’ request if they do not agree with the results of the individualized evaluation conducted by the school system.[vii]

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): A U.S. federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.[viii]

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A plan or program that is developed to ensure that a child who has a disability receives proper specialized instruction and services in elementary or secondary education.[ix]

L

Local Education Agency (LEA): A public authority, such as a board of education, that is legally authorized to administer and operate local public elementary or secondary schools.[x]

M

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: A term defined by the ADA as “Functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, learning, working, and participating in community activities”.[xi]

Marrakesh VIP Treaty: An international treaty that allows for copyright exceptions that make it easier to create accessible versions of books and other copyrighted material for individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled. Brazil and Peru have fully signed and ratified the treaty. Kenya has signed the treaty and Tanzania have not signed it yet.[xii]

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

N

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

O

Office for Civil Rights (OCR): A sub-agency within the U.S. Department of Education that is responsible for protecting civil rights in programs that receive federal assistance and ensuring equal access to education by preventing discrimination.[xiii]

Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO): A federal government agency that helps ensure  employment laws are enforced by handling complaints of discrimination to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information or reprisal.[xiv]

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP): An office within the U.S. Department of Education that coordinates federal programs and activities related to special education. OSEP is part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).[xv]

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS):

P

Physical or Mental Impairment: According to the ADA, 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;
  • Endocrine;
  • Any mental or psychological disorder, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning [xvii]

Q

Qualified Individual with a Disability: According to the ADA, 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 activates provided by a public entity.[xviii]

R

Rehabilitation Act of 1973: A U.S. federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs that are run by federal agencies; programs that receive federal financial assistance; in federal employment; and in the employment practices of federal contractors.

Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)A federal government agency that oversees grant programs that help individuals with disabilities obtain employment and live more independently.[xix]

S

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.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: A part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires that the needs of students with disabilities be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students based upon disability.

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.

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. He or she will follow the motion of your body. When showing a person who is blind to a chair, place his/her hand on the back of the chair. At times, it may also be helpful to provide a physical description of the physical environment surrounding them and the route being taken.

U

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

Universal Design: An approach to designing education that seeks to make all aspects of the educational experience more inclusive for everyone, including individuals with disabilities.[xx]

V

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.

[i] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development.  http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml

[ii] “Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). http://www.k12.wa.us/esea/.

[iii] “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).” U.S. Department of Education. http://www.ed.gov/essa?src=rn.

[iv] “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).” Laws & Guidance/General: U.S. Department of Education. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html.

[v] “Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities”. Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html

[vi] General Comment No. 4 (2016) Article 24: Right to Inclusive Education. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 2 September 2016.

[vii] “Right to Obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation.” Center for Parent Information and Resources. December 2010. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/iee/.

[viii] History: Twenty-Five Years of Progress in Educating Children with Disabilities through IDEA, U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.pdf.

[ix] “Rehabilitation Act of 1973.” Disability.gov https://www.disability.gov/rehabilitation-act-1973/

[x] 34 CFR 303.23 – Local Educational Agency. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/34/303.23

[xi] Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Public Law 101-336. 108th Congress, 2nd Session (July 26, 1990).

[xii] World Intellectual Property Organization (O). http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/marrakesh/

[xiii] “About OCR.” U.S. Department of Education: Office for Civil Rights. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/aboutocr.html.

[xiv] “Office of Equal Opportunity.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/internal_eeo/

[xv] “Welcome to OSEP.” U.S. Department of Education. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/index.html

[xvi] “About OSERS.” U.S. Department of Education. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/aboutus.html.

[xvii] Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Public Law 101-336. 108th Congress, 2nd Session (July 26, 1990).

[xviii] Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Public Law 101-336. 108th Congress, 2nd Session (July 26, 1990).

[xix] “Welcome to RSA.” U.S. Department of Education. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/index.html.

[xx] Sheryl Burgstahler, “Universal Design in Education: Principles and Applications”, Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT). http://www.washington.edu/doit/universal-design-education-principles-and-applications.

All other definitions within the Glossary of Terms are referenced from the RIT Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education.