Assistive Technology Glossary

The purpose this glossary is to provide educators, students, and others with the basic legal and technical terminology and abbreviations related to Assistive Technology. For further information regarding the terms defined, we recommend the reader consult the sources listed below each term. 

A-E  |  F-J  |  K-O  |  P-R  |  S-Z

A-E

Activities of daily living

Various routine activities that are performed day to day, such as putting on clothes, preparing meals, household chores, working at a job, going to school, using transportation to get from one place to another, etc. Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about activities of daily living.

Adapted Technology

An adaptation is a modification made to a device or to a service or program which renders it usable by or appropriate for a person with a disability. At school, a standard curriculum or lesson may be adapted, for example, to better meet the needs of a special education student. A car may be adapted with hand controls, so a person whose legs are impaired may drive. A computer may be adapted, so a person who has no fine motor control can use the machine. A toy may be adapted so a child with a disability can enjoy and learn from its use. A device, program or service which has been modified is referred to as "adapted." Thus, we have adapted computers, adapted cars, adapted kitchens, adapted toys and games, etc.  Visit Adaptive Technology Resources to learn more about Adaptive Technology.

Advocacy Services

Services provided to assist individuals with disabilities and their family members, guardians, and authorized representatives in accessing assistive technology devices and assistive technology services (AT Act of 1998). Visit Iowa Department of Human Rights to learn more about Advocacy Services.

Alternative Keyboards

Alternative keyboard layouts and other enhancements allow people who experience difficulty with conventional keyboard designs to use computers. The products available range from keyguards that prevent accidental key activation, 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. Visit Boundless Assistive Technology to learn more about Alternative Keyboards.

Alternative Pointing Systems

Alternative pointing devices are used to replace the mouse. Trackballs are upside down mice, with the ball on top and several buttons. Many trackballs offer the left and right mouse buttons plus one or two more which can be programmed to be a double click or drag lock. Visit the Infogrip  website to learn more about Alternative Pointing Systems.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

A federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in (1) employment, (2) programs, services and activities of state and local government agencies and (3) goods, services, facilities, advantages, privileges and accommodation of places of public accommodation. Visit the Equal Employment Commission to learn more about the ADA.

Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 (ADAA)

On September 25, 2008, the President signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADA Amendments Act" or "Act"). The Act emphasizes that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA and generally shall not require extensive analysis. Visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to learn more about the ADAA.

Assistive Technology

Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that increases, maintains, or improves functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Visit the Iowa Department of Education website to learn more about Assistive technology.

Assistive Technology Act of 1998

Legislation that funds the State grant programs and other activities to maintain and strengthen programs of technology-related assistance for people with disabilities. Visit the Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program to learn more about the Assistive Technology Act.

Assistive Technology Devices

"Assistive Technology devices can be anything from a simple tool with no moving parts (e.g., a toothbrush with a built-up handle) to a sophisticated mechanical/electronic system (e.g., a robotic arm). Simple, mechanical devices are often referred to as 'low tech' devices while computer-driven or complex assistive technology may be called 'high tech.' However, many people in the assistive technology field have argued that this complexity-based classification is not a useful one as there is no clear division between 'simple' or low tech and 'complex' or 'high tech' devices. With the passage of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 (PL 102-569), assistive technology devices and assistive technology services are now included as part of rehabilitation technology."  Visit the Assistive Technology Industry Association to learn more about Assistive Technology Devices.

Assistive Technology Service

Section 300.6 of IDEA 2004: Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes-- (a) The evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment; (b) Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities; (c) Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices; (d) Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs; (e) Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child's family; and (f) Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of that child. Visit the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about Assistive Technology services.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Communication in all forms (other than oral speech) used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. This includes but is not limited to using facial expressions, gestures, high tech vocabulary output devices, etc. Visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) to learn more about AACs.

Braille Embosser

A Braille Embosser is a hardware device for "printing" a hard copy of a text document in Braille. A Braille translation software program is required to translate the text from the computer into Braille. Most Braille translation software programs can translate material into several grades or versions of Braille. Visit Enabling Technologies INC to learn more about braille embossers.

Captions

On-screen text descriptions that display a video product's dialogue, identify speakers, and describe other relevant sounds that are otherwise inaccessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Visit the Do-It network to learn more about captions.

Client Assistance Program

A program established by the federal Rehabilitation Act, which provides information, advice and advocacy to individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation services.  Visit the Iowa Department of Human Rights to learn more about the Iowa Client Assistance Program.

Close Circuit TeleVision (CCTV)

A Closed Circuit TeleVision (CCTV) is a video magnification system consisting of a video screen interfaced with a video camera. Video magnification is achieved in two ways - the electronic conversion from the small camera imager to the larger display screen and the optical effect of the cameras zoom lens. The CCTV system provides high contrast, inverse video display, gray scale, false colors, natural colors, and/or control of contrast level and brightness. Visit JAN to learn more about CCTV.

Disability

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.  Visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to learn more about the amended definition of disability.

Discrimination

Unequal treatment of qualified individuals with disabilities as members of the general public. Failure to provide reasonable accommodation may also constitute discrimination. Visit The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to learn more about disability discrimination.

Early Intervention Services

A program of activities and services, including assistive technology, required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children from birth through age two. Visit the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about Early Intervention Services.

Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADLs)

Control devices in the environment using an alternative method to provide independent control for persons with physical, sensory and/or cognitive impairments. Visit the International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation to learn more about Electronic Aids to Daily Living.

Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC)

The federal agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting complaints of discrimination in employment. The EEOC is designated as the entity to enforce the employment provisions of Title I and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to learn about their resources.

F-J

Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Section 504 mandates that school districts must provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability. Section 504 is a component of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs that receive federal assistance (e.g. federal funds). Section 504 states “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Visit the U.S. Department of Education to learn to more about FAPE.

Independent Living Services

A wide variety of services designed to enhance the abilities of individuals with significant disabilities to live independently, either in the community or with their families, and, if appropriate, to secure and maintain employment. Visit Access2 Independence to learn more about Independent Living Services in Iowa.

Individual Education Program (IEP)

A legal document developed by a team containing a special education student's present levels of educational performance, goals and objectives, special education and related services and placement for each school year. Visit Iowa Department of Education to learn more about IEPs.

Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)

A written document stating the employment outcome of a vocational rehabilitation client and the specific vocational rehabilitation services the Department of Rehabilitation shall provide to the client. Visit Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services for more information about IPEs.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Federal law that authorizes special education and related services including assistive technology. Visit the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about IDEA.

K-O

Least Restrictive Environment

The term used in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stating the requirement that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with non-disabled children; and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Visit the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about least Restrictive Environment.

Mobility Devices

Walkers, crutches, canes, braces, and other similar devices that assist users with moving around. They help to conserve energy and increase activity levels of the user. Visit the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Centers to learn more about Mobility Devices.

Orthotic Devices

Instruments which are applied to the human body to align, support, or correct deformities, or to improve the movement of joints, spine, or limbs. They can come pre-made or custom designed to the individual’s needs.  Visit the American Orthotic Prosthetic Association to learn more about Orthotic Devices.

P-R

Power Mobility Devices

Power Operated Vehicles (POVs) (aka. Scooters) and power wheelchairs (PWCs). Users can qualify for these through Medicaid if their Mobility-Related Activities of Daily Living (MRADL) are significantly impaired and cannot be resolved or sufficiently aided by the use of a lower technology mobility device (e.g. a cane or walker). Visit the Americans with Disabilities Act Title II Regulations to learn more about Power Mobility Devices.

Prosthetic Devices

Devices affixed to, or implanted in, the body to substitute for, or assist the function of, a defective or missing body part or organ. Visit the American Orthotic Prosthetic Association’s website to learn more about Prosthetic Devices.

Public Accommodation

A private entity that owns or operates a place of business to which the public is invited. The place where the entity conducts its activities is referred to as the place of public accommodation. Typical examples of such places include restaurants, retail stores, hotels and doctors' offices. Visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to learn more about Public Accommodations.

Public Entity

Under the ADA, public entity means any state or local government; any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentalities of a state or local government; and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation and any commuter authority. Visit the Americans with Disability Title II Highlights to learn more about the definition a public entity.

Qualified Individuals with Disabilities

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability who meets the essential eligibility requirements to be considered for an employment position, or for participation in a public program or activity. Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  for more information concerning qualified individuals with disabilities.

Reasonable Accommodation

Under the ADA, reasonable adjustments, modifications or provision of services and equipment necessary to enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal opportunities in employment. The term is routinely used to include accommodations needed under other circumstances such as those administering public programs or providing private service. Visit the Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance website to learn more about reasonable accommodations.

Refreshable Braille Display

Refreshable Braille Displays are electronic devices that are used to read text that a computer sends to the monitor. The device is connected to the computer by a serial cable and produces Braille output on the Braille display. Visit the American Foundation for the Blind to learn more about Refreshable Braille.

Rehabilitation Act

Federal law entitling individuals with disabilities to vocational rehabilitation and independent living services. This law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by various entities including the federal government, recipients of federal financial assistance and federal contractors. Visit DisabilityGov to learn more about the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Rehabilitation Engineering

Rehabilitation engineering is the systematic application of technologies, engineering methodologies, or scientific principles to meet the need of and address the barriers confronted by people with disabilities in areas which include education, rehabilitation, employment, transportation, independent living, and recreation. Visit Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America to learn more about Rehabilitation Engineering.

S-Z

Screen Magnification Software

Screen magnification software are used by people with visual disabilities to access information on a computers screen. The software enlarges the information on the screen by pre-determined incremental factor [for example, 1x magnification, 2x magnification, 3x magnification, etc,]. Most screen magnification software has the flexibility to magnify the full screen, parts of the screen or provide a magnifying glass view of the area around the cursor or pointer. These programs also often allow for inverted colors, enhanced pointer viewing and tracking options. Visit the JAN website to learn more about Screen Magnification Software.

Screen Readers

A Screen Reader is the commonly used name for Voice Output Technology. Hardware and software produce synthesized voice output for text displayed on the computer screen, as well as for keystrokes entered on the keyboard. Visit the American Foundation for the Blind to learn more about Screen Readers.

Self Advocacy

The awareness, motivation and ability of an individual to represent and communicate his or her own interests, to exercise personal choice, and to exert control over his or her environment. Visit Self-Advocacy Online to learn more about Self-Advocacy.

Self Determination

The ability for a person to make decisions and goals for themselves. One component is for the individual to consider is what things are really hard for them, and what tools might help to reduce that difficulty. A tool for teaching young students how to employ self-determination can be found in the Student Handbook for Choosing and Using Assistive Technology, by Bowser & Reed (2001). Visit the National Gateway to Self-Determination for information about Self-Determination.

Speech Synthesizers

An external speech synthesizer is a hardware device used for speech output. Typically, they are used with screen readers or OCR/scanning software [Optical Character Recognition] programs for people who are blind or visually disabled. Visit The American Foundation for the Blind to learn more about Speech Synthesizers.

Speech-Generating Device (SGD)

An electronic AAC system used to supplement or replace verbal speech or writing for individuals with severe speech impairments to enable them to communicate. Visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for more information about Speech-Generating Devices.

Text Readers

Devices that use Text-to-Speech (TTS), which is a form of speech synthesis that converts text in to spoken voice output. Visit the Understood website to learn more about Text Readers.

TTY (Teletypewriter)/ TTD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

This device 'rings' via flashing light or the more recent vibrating wrist band that resembles a watch. The TTY/TDD consists of a keyboard, which hold somewhere from 20 to 30 character keys, a display screen, and a modem. The letters that the TTY/TDD users types into the machine are turned into electrical signals that can travel over regular telephone lines. When the signals reach their destination (in this case another TTY/TDD) they are converted back into letters which appear on a display screen, are printed out on paper or both. Visit the JAN website to learn more about TTY/TDD

Universal Design

A Framework for designing products and spaces so that they can be accessed by the biggest range of people as possible, including ranges of ability and diversity. An example includes sidewalk curb cuts. Curb Cuts were designed to help individuals in wheelchairs, but have since become useful to many individuals for a wider range of needs (e.g. shopping carts, strollers, and luggage). Universal Design can apply to any product that can be created to work for or be accessed by all people no matter their differences (e.g. physical needs, body shapes and sizes, perceptual and cognitive abilities). Visit the Universal Design website to learn more about Universal Design.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

A framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. Three principles guide UDL with students: I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation (through consideration of differences in perception, language, expressions and symbols, and comprehension abilities); II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression (factoring in physical action, expression and communication, and executive function differences in abilities to show what they know); and III. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (by factoring in recruiting interest, sustaining effort and persistence, and self-regulation to stimulate interest and motivation for learning).  Visit the CAST  website or the National Center on Universal Design for Learning to explore more information about UDL.

Vocational Rehabilitation Service

A range of vocational services including training, counseling, job placement and assistive technology provided by the Department of Rehabilitation for the purpose of maximizing the employability of individuals with disabilities. Visit Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services to learn more about their programs and services.

Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA)

Electronic devices that are able to generate printed and/or spoken text. VOCA aid individuals who are unable to use natural speech to meet all of their communication needs. Visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for more information about Voice Output Communication Aids.

Voice Recognition

Voice Recognition allows a user to use his/her voice as an input device. Voice recognition may be used to dictate text into the computer or to give commands to the computer (such as opening application programs, pulling down menus, or saving work). Continuous speech voice recognition applications allow a user to dictate text fluently into the computer. These new applications can recognize speech at up to 160 words per minute. While the accuracy of voice recognition has improved over the past few years some users still experience problems with accuracy either because of the way they speak or the nature of their voice. Visit the JAN website to learn more about Voice Recognition.