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Ableism: Systemic discrimination against disabled people based on their impairment status alone.


Access: Provision of a barrier-free environment, accommodations, or changes in policies, procedures, or the built environment to ensure that all individuals can benefit from, and participate in, all activities and events of a program.


Accessibility Survey: Survey of programs and policies, and the architectural, communication, and technological environment as it relates to the participation of individuals with a range of disabilities.


Accommodations: Any device, technology, service, or change in programs, policies, or the built environment that are provided to an individual with a disability to support them in their service or participation.


Alternate Formats: Different ways of providing information other than standard print documents. Some examples of alternate formats are: text files on a computer disk, large print, books on tape, Braille.


Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA): Provides civil rights protection to people with disabilities and guarantees those covered by the law equal opportunity in employment, state and local government services, transportation, places of public accommodation, and telecommunications services.

Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Access Guidelines (ADAAG): Technical requirements under the ADA for accessibility to buildings and facilities by individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We recommend following the ADAAG requirements for Section 504 compliance.

Architectural Access: Refers to the "built" or physical environment and the ability of persons with a range of disabilities to get to, from, and around that built environment.

Assistive Listening Device: A device that makes sound clearer and louder, and in many cases, blocks out environmental sound and interference. Most often persons with hearing loss will use assistive listening devices.

Assistive Technology Device: Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capacities of individuals with disabilities (as defined in the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988).

Assistive Technology Service: Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Service includes evaluation of need; selection; purchase; coordination of related services; training and technical assistance.

Attitudinal Barriers: Attitudes, fears, and assumptions that prevent people with and without disabilities from meaningfully interacting with one another.

Augmentative Communication: Alternative means of communication used by an individual with a disability who has a severe speech or cognitive disability. An augmentative communication device may have a keyboard that the individual types on a computerized-voice output that relays the message. It might also be a sheet of paper with photos or pictures that a person would point to.

Barrier-Free Design: An approach to design that creates buildings, transportation systems, and outdoor environments that people with disabilities can access and use independently and safely (see Universal Design).

Communication Access: Ability of a program to ensure that people with hearing loss or who are non-verbal can effectively communicate. This can include the provision of interpreters or assistive listening devices, but it can also mean speaking clearly, facing an individual, and writing notes.

Communication Barriers: Lack of communication access for persons with hearing loss, including poorly lit rooms, background noise, lack of interpreters, or captioning. Community-Based Living: Refers to individuals with disabilities living in the community with or without supports from individuals and community-based organizations.

Consumer: A term sometimes used for people with disabilities instead of "patient" or "client" to communicate their active and equal role in accessing services.

Denial of Identity: Denying the identity of a person with a disability. a) denial of personal identity  b) denial of experience

Denial of Privacy: Denial of person with a disability’s right to individual privacy due to their disability status.

Desexualization: Denial of the person with a disability as a sexual being, includes all aspects of the sexuality and sexual identity.


Developmental Disability: Defined in law as a person with a "severe and chronic disability" that is attributed to a mental or physical disability or combination; is manifested before age 22; and results in substantial functional limitation in at least three major life activities. The term is also used to refer to people who are diagnosed with mental retardation.

Disabled: Defines people who have impairments as being discriminated against and oppressed.

Direct Threat: A legal term referring to a situation when a disabling condition may pose a threat to safety of an individual or others.

Disability, Person with a: a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (as defined by the Developmental Disabilities Act) of such individual; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such impairment.

Disability-Related Inquiry: Any question or action likely to elicit the possible presence of a disability.

Disability Rights Movement: The collective efforts of advocates to secure equal rights, equal opportunities, and a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities.

Essential Service Functions/Duties: The fundamental duties of a service position the individual with a disability holds or desires. A function may be considered essential because the reason the position exists is to perform that function; because of the limited number of individuals among whom the performance of that job function can be distributed; and/or because the function is highly specialized and the individual was selected for his or her expertise or ability to perform the particular function. It does not include the marginal functions of the position.

Functional Limitations: Limitations to life activities that result from a disability.

Helplessness: Assumption by the perpetrator that the person with a disability is helpless, needs help, and/or must be protected.

Inaccessible: Any program, activity, or event that is not open to or excludes individuals with disabilities by reason of an inaccessible physical space or the lack of accommodations.

Impairment: The part of an individual that functions differently from traditional function.

Inclusion: Active engagement of people with disabilities in all levels of society. The mere presence of people with disabilities does not necessarily constitute inclusion. A program is inclusive when people with disabilities are valued contributing members with a sense of belonging.

Inclusive Service Environment: A service program, site, or activity that actively engages individuals with disabilities as valued and equal members of a team and is open and accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Independent Living Centers (ILCs): National network of community based organizations with a mission to "advance the independent living philosophy and advocate for the human rights of and services for, people with disabilities to further their full integration and participation in society."

Independent Living Movement: Advocacy movement that views the person with a disability as an active "consumer" of services and advocates for personal independence, barrier removal, equal rights and opportunities, and consumer choice and control.

Institutional Segregation/ Institutionalization: Practice of removing persons with disabilities from their communities to institutional care.

Inspiration Porn: is the portrayal of people with body/mind differences as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their impairment.

Interpreter: A certified or trained individual who facilitates communication between individuals who use sign language and individuals who do not. There are also "oral" interpreters who repeat what is being said so that individuals who rely on speech reading can communicate.

Life Activity: Functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Life Sustaining Support: Assistance for activities that retain human life.

Marginal Functions: Functions that can easily be reassigned or changed without altering the nature of the position.

Medicaid: Jointly funded, Federal-State health insurance program for qualified individuals. It covers approximately 36 million individuals including children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and people who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments.


Medicare: Health insurance that covers seniors and some people with disabilities based on their work experience or the work experience of a spouse or parent. National Disability Organizations: National organizations that support, advocate for, assist, and/or serve individuals with disabilities.

Paratransit: Publicly funded transportation for persons who are unable to use mass transportation.

Patronization: The infantilization or false admiration of a person with a disability based on their disability status.

People First Language: Language that puts the person first when speaking of someone with a disability to remind us that they are people first. For example: "person with a disability" instead of "disabled person"; "people with disabilities" instead of "the disabled"; "she is a wheelchair user" instead of "she is wheelchair bound" or "she is in a wheelchair."

Personal Assistance Service (PAS): Consumer-directed services that enable an individual with physical, mental, or sensory disabilities to live in his/her home and community and carry out functions of daily living, self-care, and mobility.

Physical Barriers: Physical obstacles that hinder people with physical disabilities from gaining access.

Physical or Mental Impairment: Any physiological disorder, or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

Programmatic Access: Policies that allow for, facilitate, and embrace full participation of people with disabilities in service.

Qualified Individual with a Disability: A legal term defined under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position that such individual holds or desires."

Real Time Captioning: Process where a captioner types, on a device and in shorthand, words that are spoken and then the words are displayed on a computer monitor, television screen, video or overhead projector, or other type of audiovisual device for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Relay Service: A communications service found in all states that provides Communication Assistants who act as intermediaries on the telephone between hearing individuals and individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and/or have speech disabilities.

Second Class Citizen: Denial of rights and respect of the person with a disability by the perpetrator.  a) Burdened  b) Avoidance/Invisibility  c) Environmental

Secondary Gain: Where the perpetuator desires to gain something through their interaction with the person with a disability.  a) intrinsic and extrinsic rewards

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973: The federal statute that ensures the rights and participation of individuals with disabilities in federally funded programs.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act: Section 508 requires that electronic and information technology of federal agencies is accessible to people with disabilities. For more information, go to

Self-Advocacy: Refers to a national movement of people with intellectual disabilities speaking and advocating for themselves. There are self-advocacy organizations throughout the United States.

Self-Disclose: Action by an individual with a disability to identify their disability to another individual or individuals.

Service Description:  is a document that outlines the essential and marginal functions of a service position.

Service Animal: means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.  The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s impairment.

Spread Effect: An interaction where the disability is assumed to impact functioning beyond the appropriate limitation based on the specific disability.  a) ascription of intelligence, b) ascription of ability

SSDI (Social Security Disability Income): Benefit available to individuals who have a work history (or are the child or widow of insured), and due to disability, are no longer able to work.

SSI (The Supplementary Security Income): A nationwide, federal-assistance program administered by the Social Security Administration that guarantees a minimum level of income for adults and children with a disability who have an insufficient work history.

Substantially Limits: The inability to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform; or significant restriction as to the condition, manner, or duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the average person in the general population. Temporary/Transient Barriers: Barriers in the "built" or physical environment created by objects such as furniture, parked cars, planters, and other barriers that can easily be removed.

Three Part Definition of a Person with a Disability: 1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or 2) a record of such impairment; or 3) a perception of such an impairment, even when the impairment does not exist.

Transportation Barriers: Absence of accessible, reliable, and affordable transportation.

TTY/TDD: Telecommunications device for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing or have speech disability.

Universal Design: Extends the idea of barrier-free design to cover the needs of all members of society, including children and seniors.

Voice Recognition: Assistive technology software that allows people to write and command equipment using their voice rather than their hands. This technology has been used to accommodate people with a variety of disabilities.

Work Incentives Program: Options for people who are receiving disability benefits and want to enter the work or service force while minimizing adverse effects on their SSA benefits. For more information contact the Social Security Administration (website:

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