Academic adjustment:

A modification to an academic requirement or procedure to ensure that a qualified student with disabilities receives equal access to education. Adjustments should not alter the academic integrity of the course, waive essential skills, or allow content to be “watered down”.


In Web pages, it refers to the ability of a Web page to be viewed by everyone,

especially people with disabilities who use various assistive technologies. Accessible Web pages take into account the special needs of visitors with auditory, visual, mobility, and cognitive impairments and give those users an equivalent browsing experience to that of non-disabled visitors


For purposes of this unit, accessibility is defined as making courses available to students. To do this it is important to consider the pedagogy, the equipment, and the physical environment. Providing information in digital format and the use of assistive technology may be required for some students.


Accommodation letter or memo:

A letter or form prepared by DSS that explains the approved accommodations to faculty and identifies the role of the faculty member in the provision of these accommodations.


Accommodation Process:

1) Getting to DSS, 2) meeting the eligibility requirements, 3) deciding on specific accommodations, 4) implementing the accommodation plan, and 5) revising the accommodation plan.


ADA: Americans With Disabilities Act:

Bill passed in 1990 to provide equal protection and access

to public accommodations to people with a variety of disabilities including visual, auditory, mobility, and other mental and physical health-related conditions. The bill requires that businesses with 15 or more employees make their facilities and equipment (including information technology) accessible to the disabled.


Adaptive Technology:

See assistive technology.


Alternative format materials:

The production of print materials in a format that enables a person with a visual impairment or other print disability to read the materials using adaptive skills or technologies. Alternative format materials may include large print, audio tapes, electronic text, and Braille.


Alternative Keyboard Layout:

Allows people who experience difficulty with conventional

keyboard designs to use computers. The products available range from key guards that prevent two keys from being pressed simultaneously, to alternative keyboards with differing layouts, sizes, etc. for people who have specific needs, to alternative input systems which require other means/methods of getting information into a computer.


Alternative Mouse System:

Alternative pointing devices are used to replace the mouse. Includes

trackballs and other pointing devices.


Alternative Text (ALT Text):

Descriptive text included in IMG tags that appears when the mouse

is held over the image. The text should provide a concise alternative description of the image or image map that will make sense when heard through a screen reader.
Include ALT text in your code like this: <img src="/accessibility/robot-image.gif" alt="Old NetMechanic Robot Logo!">


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

Civil rights legislation signed by President George Bush on July 26, 1990. Prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, state and local government, public accommodations and services, transportation, and telecommunications.


Architectural accessibility:

The application of design principles and construction that allows persons with disabilities to use facilities such as buildings, sidewalks, entryways, elevators, restrooms and water fountains with maximum independence and in accordance with current building codes.


Asperger’s Syndrome or Asperger’s Disorder:

A milder variant of Autistic Disorder.   While often highly intelligent, there are usually impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical, their speech may be peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern.


Assistive or Adaptive technology (AT):

Equipment or software items designed or used to compensate for areas of disability or impairment. It allows persons with disabilities the same access to information and production as their peers.


According to the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities ACT of 1988 (Tech Act; P.L. 100, 407), an AT device refers to “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 the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” Raskind and Bryant (1996) note that in some instances the device may assist, augment, or supplement task performance in a given area of disability; while in others, it may be used to circumvent or bypass specific deficits entirely.


Assistive Technology:

As defined by the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, the term refers to

"any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."
Assistive technologies include: screen readers and magnifiers, closed captioning, alternative keyboards, and other special software and equipment that makes information devices more accessible. Also referred to as "Adaptive Technology."


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):

A neurobiological disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to sustain attention or focus on a task and to control impulsive behavior.


Auditory Impairment:

Conditions where people are completely deaf or hard of hearing. They require visual representations (captions or transcripts) of information contained in audio files


Auxiliary aids:

Services, equipment, and procedures that allow students with disabilities access to learning and activities in and out of the classroom. They include, but are not limited to, sign language interpreters, real-time captioning, adaptive technology, alternative media (Braille, tapes, scanned text, enlarged print), readers, and scribes.



Assistive technology for blind and visually impaired people that uses 6 raised dots

grouped in different patterns to represent letters and numbers. People read Braille by running their fingertips across the dots. Some screen readers also output content in Braille format using a Braille display.


Braille Display:

Assistive technology that raises or lowers dot patterns based on input from an electronic device such as a screen reader or text browser.



Software package available for use online or through download that evaluates Web pages for accessibility mainly to visually impaired users. Sites that pass are entitled to display the "Bobby Approved" icon. However, that icon does not mean that those sites also comply with all of Section 508's accessibility requirements.



A text transcript of the audio portion of a video file that synchronizes the text to the action contained in the video.



A process that allows individuals who have hearing impairments to have access to oral information in classroom lectures, video or film presentations. Captions are printed scripts of the oral information presented. Captioning is accomplished with various technologies, including stenography and specialized software.


Closed Circuit Television (CCTV):

An enlarging device, used by persons with vision impairments or learning disabilities, composed of a zoom lens and a television screen or computer monitor to enlarge print or visual materials.


Cognitive Impairments:

Conditions that cause people to understand and process information more slowly than average. These people may require information to be presented in multiple formats (see and hear it for example) before they completely understand it. See also: Learning Disabilities



Refers to privacy of medical and academic information. Students in higher education have the right to confidentiality of disability related information. DSS offices may not release medical information to faculty or others without a signed release of information form. Faculty should use caution not to disclose information shared by students regarding their disability or accommodations with colleagues or other students.



A hearing impairment that results in little or no residual hearing with or without a hearing aid. An individual who is deaf uses vision as the primary modality for learning and communication. Many people who are deaf use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language that has its own unique linguistic characteristics and is a distinct language from English.


Direct threat:

A significant risk or substantial harm to the health and safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.


Disability (person with):

“Any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such an individual; any individual who has a record of such an impairment; and any individual who is regarded as having such an impairment” (ADA, 1990). Major life activities may include, but are not limited to, walking, hearing, seeing, learning, caring for oneself, breathing, performing manual tasks, and working.


Disability related or functional limitations:

Restrictions resulting from a disability that prevent an individual (without accommodations or auxiliary aids) from participating in major life activities including, but not limited to, walking, learning, seeing, hearing, and learning.



Comprehensive written validation of a person’s disability and the functional limitations of the disability provided by an appropriate professional qualified to make a specific type of diagnosis. The documentation must be given to DSS before services, accommodations and auxiliary aids can be approved. Faculty do not have access to this medical information. (See Confidentiality.)



One of several distinct learning disabilities. A specific language-based disorder characterized by difficulties in single-word decoding. Dyslexia is manifest by difficulty with different forms of language, including problems with reading and acquiring proficiency in writing and spelling. (Adapted from the International Dyslexia Association.)


Eligibility for disability related services:

In order to be eligible for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, students must have a documented disability that severely limits the performance of a major life activity as compared to the average person. The documentation must be professionally credible, comprehensive, and support the necessity of the requested accommodations (see Documentation).


Essential functions or requirements:

Refers to job duties of the employment position that the person with a disability holds or desires. Within the scope of the ADA, essential functions of the job are those “basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation” (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC], 1991, p. 3). Evidence whether a particular function is essential is based on a number of sources including, but not limited to “an employer’s judgment, written job descriptions, amount of time performing the function, collective bargaining agreements, work experience of past and or present employees in similar jobs.” Essential functions in higher education are discipline specific.


Essential skills:

The skills that the course is intended to teach so that an individual can gain the competencies of the program or course. Essential skills are critical to the purpose of the course, should not be “watered down”, and are the responsibility of the instructor to determine.


Guide Dog/Service Animal:

Dogs who have been trained to assist individuals with visual, physical or hearing impairments. Guide dogs are legally permitted to accompany their owners into all places of public accommodation.


“Has a record of”:

ADA provisions protecting those who may experience discrimination based on a history of disability. For example, an individual who has a history of cancer is protected from discrimination.


Hearing Impairment/Hearing Loss:

A disability that affects the ability to hear. Hearing impairment, as generally used, denotes that there are different degrees of hearing loss that may be mild, moderate, or severe. Individuals with hearing impairments may or may not use hearing aids. Though these individuals have a hearing loss, they still use auditory means for learning and communication.


A trained professional who assists individuals who are deaf with a variety of communication services, including sign language and tactile or oral interpretation of verbally expressed communication. Interpreters used as accommodations should be arranged by DSS. Alabama law requires that interpreters have a permit or license in order to be paid to interpret.


Invisible or hidden disability:

Disabilities that are not readily apparent or observable. Invisible disabilities include learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, psychological disabilities, medical or chronic health impairments, visual impairments, and hearing impairments.


“Is regarded as having”:

ADA provisions protecting individuals who may not have a disability as defined by ADA, but is treated or subjected to discrimination as if they do. For example, a person who has a chronic medical condition but is not limited in any way is protected under ADA from discrimination and harassment




The most widely used screen reader. Download an evaluation copy at the Freedom Scientific Web site.



Lab aide:

A person who performs skills that are difficult or impossible for the student with disabilities to carry out. Much like scribes and readers, a lab aide would be trained to carry out specific operations as dictated by the student. He or she would need to receive training in ways to assist the student without compromising the academic integrity of the lab and or fieldwork, allowing the student to demonstrate mastery of the essential skills of the course or lab.


Learning disability:

A permanent disorder that interferes with integrating, acquiring, and/or demonstrating verbal or nonverbal abilities and skills. Frequently, there are some processing or memory deficits. An individual may have difficulty with reading, spelling, written expression, mathematics, problem solving, listening, and oral expression. The disorder is often inconsistent and each individual has his or her unique set of characteristics.


Learning Disabilities:

Conditions that cause people to understand and process information more slowly than average. These people may require information to be presented in multiple formats (see and hear it for example) before they completely understand it.


Legally mandated services:

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires that postsecondary institutions provide services and accommodations to qualified students including interpreters for the deaf, note taking assistance, readers, accommodated testing, extended time to complete program requirements, and other reasonable modifications as determined on a case by case basis.



Table rendering process used by some screen readers and text browsers that converts table cells into a series of paragraphs that will be read one after the other in the order they are defined in the HTML code.


Linearized Table:

A table that has been subjected to linearization. Depending on page layout, some Web pages may be extremely hard to decipher after their tables have been linearized. Read the content of your table cells sequentially to make sure that they make sense after linearization.



Media Access Generator. Tool that allows Web authors to add captions to three multimedia formats: Apple's QuickTime, the World Wide Web Consortium's Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) and Microsoft's Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange (SAMI) format. MAGpie can also integrate audio descriptions into SMIL presentations.

Major life activity:

Basic activities that the “average person” could perform with little or no difficulty, including caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.


Medical disability:

A disability resulting from a medical condition. An individual with a medical disability may exhibit several functional limitations. Conditions that may fall under this category include, but are not limited to multiple sclerosis, diabetes, seizures disorder, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, and respiratory conditions.


Mobility impairment:

A disability that limits an individual’s ability to move; walk independently without the aid of a wheelchair, walker, or other assistive devices; or walk long distances due to limited energy or chronic pain.


Mobility Impairments:

Physical impairments that limit movement and fine motor controls like walking, lifting, or using a mouse or keyboard. People with physical impairments often require adaptive or assistive technologies to use computers or navigate through Web sites.


Non-text Equivalent:

Content provided through audio files, sign language, or other visual means to convey information to people with visual or cognitive disabilities.


Psychiatric disability:

Individuals with a diagnosed mental illness may have difficulty functioning well in their academic, personal, or social environments. These conditions may include depression, pervasive anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and stress-related conditions. Many of these conditions are successfully treated with medication and therapy.


“Qualified individual with a disability”:

  • In higher education: An individual who meets the academic and technical standards for admission to or participation in an education program or activity and can, with or without accommodation, perform the essential tasks involved in the course or program.
  • In employment: An individual with a disability who satisfies the qualifications for employment and can perform the essential functions of such position with or without reasonable accommodation.


Real time captioning:

An auxiliary aid for students with hearing and other impairments that allows them instant visual access to lectures. The lecture content is typed verbatim by a trained professional as the lecture occurs. Students view the typed captions on a monitor or other display device.


Reasonable accommodations:

An adjustment made to assist a student and/or employee that allows equal participation in a public service, program, and or employment opportunity.

  • In the educational setting, reasonable accommodations may involve modification or adjustments that provide equal access to programs, services and activities of the institution, including classroom access, internships and field experiences, housing facilities, and recreational programs. Access may be achieved through the provision of auxiliary aids, assistive technologies, and modification of instructional and examination practices.
  • Reasonable accommodations do not include lowering of academic standards, alteration of the fundamental nature of programs, personal services, or accommodations that result in undue financial or administrative burden. Undue hardship is determined based on the total resources of the institution, not the individual resources of a program or department (see Undue Hardship).


Rehabilitation Act of 1973:

This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federally funded programs and activities and in programs and activities conducted by the federal government. Section 504 of the law states: “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States... shall…, solely by reason of his or her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”


Rehabilitation Act of 1973:

Congressional act designed to foster economic independence for people with disabilities. Authorized grants to states for vocational and other rehabilitation services.


Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1993:

Amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and 1986 to Workforce Investment Partnership Act of 1998 establish a coordinated system of Federal aid programs for vocational education, adult education, and job training at State and local levels.


Screen Magnifier:

Software program that magnifies all or part of a computer screen to make the content visible to users with visual impairments.


Screen Reader:

Software that reads the content of a computer screen aloud. Screen readers can only interpret text content, so all graphic and multimedia must have alternative text descriptions using ALT text, captions, transcripts, or other methods.





A person provided as an accommodation to assist in transferring verbally expressed communication to a written form. This is generally used for persons who are unable to write due to their disability.


Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973:

The first law to specifically address the needs of students with disabilities. It is a civil rights statute intended to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability. Section 504 requires that institutions of higher education provide students with disabilities the same opportunities as nondisabled students.


Section 508

Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires that electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the Federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. On August 7, 1998, the President signed into law the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which includes the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. Section 508 was originally added to the Rehabilitation Act in 1986; the 1998 amendments significantly expand and strengthen the technology access requirements in Section 508. Learn more about Section 508.

States that receive funding under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 must comply with Section 508 guidelines.


Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973:

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled individuals and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.


Syllabus statement:

A statement included in the course syllabus regarding your policies on providing services and accommodations to students with disabilities.


If you are registered with Disability Support Services, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss accommodations that may be necessary. If you have a disability but have not contacted Disability Support Services, please call 934-4205 or visit DSS at 516 Hill University Center.


Students who may need course accommodations are welcome to make an appointment to see me during office hours. Students with disabilities must be registered with Disability Support Services, HUC 516 or 934-4205, and provide an accommodation request letter before receiving academic adjustments.



Substantial limitation:

Inability or significant restriction in the condition, duration, or manner in which a person is able to perform any basic or major life activity.


Factors that may be considered in determining whether there is a substantial limitation include (a) the nature and severity of the impairment, (b) the duration of the impairment, (c) the permanent or long-term impact of the impairment (29 C.F.R. § 1630.2[j]).


Technical standards:

All nonacademic criteria that are found to be essential to participate in a course or program.


Telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD), Text telephone, Telephone relay service:


Instruments or services that allow individuals with hearing or speech impairments to communicate over the telephone using a keyboard device or computer. Telephone relay services, required in each state under ADA, assist callers with hearing impairments via an operator-assisted program.

Text Equivalent:

Text content that describes information on the screen that's contained in graphic, Flash, or other multimedia files. Text equivalent is often provided using captions, ALT text, or transcripts. The alternate text must convey the same function or purpose for the user with a disability as the non-text content does for others.


Text To Speech Software:

Text-to-Speech software is used to convert words from a computer document (e.g. word processor document, web page) into audible speech spoken through the computer speaker. This differs from screen reader technology because it doesn't read any system information or alternative text descriptions.


Text Transcript:

A text description of information contained in audio files.



Undue hardship:

Refers to an accommodation request requiring significant difficulty or expense in the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, financial resources, and type of situation. At UAB, the entire budget of the UA system would be analyzed to evaluate whether the cost in question was an undue hardship; not individual departmental budgets. This is in determining whether an accommodation is reasonable and whether it must be implemented (see Reasonable Accommodations). Denial of an accommodation based on “undue hardship” must be made by the institution’s legal counsel, not by faculty or departmental leadership.


Universal design for learning (UDL):

As used in education, universal design for learning refers to the process of making the goals of learning attainable by all students regardless of learning style or physical, sensory, organizational, or linguistic abilities. It emphasizes meeting the unique needs of each student by providing a variety of ways for students to access and engage in the learning process.



Refers to design features that make a product user friendly. For instance, Web sites with usability problems could be hard to navigate, difficult for disabled people to use, or have unclear instructions for use.


Video Description:

An audio narration of visual media, i.e. television and film, for viewers who are blind or visually impaired. This narration consists of verbal descriptions of key visual elements in a media presentation such as settings and actions not reflected in dialogue. The descriptive narration is inserted into the presentation during the natural pauses in the audio (and sometimes during dialogue if deemed necessary).

Visual Impairment:

Refers to conditions where people are blind, color blind, or have reduced vision capabilities. Often, these people will use assistive technologies like screen readers or magnifiers to help them use computers and navigate through Web sites.


Voice Browser:

A device that interprets voice markup languages to generate voice output and interpret voice input. Their most common use allows users to access the Internet using a telephone.



Voice Recognition:

A device that allows a user to use his/her voice as an input device. Use it to dictate text into the computer or give commands to open files, save them, etc.



Web Accessibility Initiative, affiliated with the World Wide Web Consortium. Coordinates with organizations around the world to increase the accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development.