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As  a TPC instructor learning about accessibility, you may run into unfamiliar terms. We’ve defined some terms below for your information.

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Accelerator Keys – Usually combinations of characters that allow users to make software commands instead of interacting with menu options or different levels of a user interface, also known as keyboard shortcuts.

Accessibility – The measure of a web page’s usability by persons with one or more disabilities; it includes the deign of sites, systems or applications to benefit people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities; applies to mobile web design, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, design for older users, and search engine optimization (SEO)

Accessibility Checker – A program used to evaluate the accessibility of a website or document; checkers may be built into some programs which you may use to build documents and course content, such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, or you can use one of a number of external accessibility checkers

Accessibility Law In the U.S., online writing instructors among many others are required to follow these laws regarding disabilities and accessibility, i.e. Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Accessibility Statement – A statement in a professor’s course syllabus encouraging students with disabilities to contact the school’s disability services center and to speak to the professor confidentially to discuss accommodations

Accessible Site – Presents information through multiple sensory channels, such as sight and sound, allows for keyboard-based control and voice-based navigation

Accommodations – Academic adjustments, auxiliary aids or services

Alternative Text – Short text used to describe images, usually 125 characters or less.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation; the ADA requires that reasonable accommodations be provided in meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) – Assistive technology that amplifies sound from the speaker’s microphone, i.e. hearing loops and induction loops

Assistive Technology/Adaptive Technology – Software or equipment that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web, i.e. screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice recognition software and selection switches

Audio Browsers – Web browsers that provide a text-to-speech capability for the blind and visually impaired

Auditory Disability – This includes deafness or hearing impairments (hard of hearing).

Authoring Tools – Software or services that people use to produce web content, i.e. code editors, document conversion tools, content management systems (CMS), blogs, database scripts, and other tools

Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 – Guidelines developed through the WAI for any tool used to put content on the web, including HTML editors (Dreamweaver, PHPStorm, Sublime), CMS software (Drupal, blogs, wikis), and video and audio editors (Adobe Premiere, Audacity)

Braille Terminal – Machines that convert text on a screen to braille by raising bumps through holes on a flat surface


Captions – A textual representation of sounds, usually associated with television programming or movies; captions are meant to display in real time and to capture speech sounds and sounds beyond speech in some cases

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) – Nonprofit research and development organization founded in 1984

Clickability Cues – A visual indication that a given word or item on a Web page is clickable; cues that can be used to indicate the clickability of an item include color, underlining, bullets, and arrows

Code-and-fix method – Building programs or websites on successive, layered, quick decisions

Cognitive and Neurological Disabilities – Developmental disabilities, learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.), and cognitive disabilities of various origins, affecting memory, attention, developmental “maturity”, problem-solving and logic skills, etc.

Color Combinations – Colors should never be the only means of identification, as they are one of the ways to identify different parts of a document; consider the ways in which colors interact with each other and if they may affect the way they are perceived by those who may have visibility issues

Disability – A limitation in an ability

Competency-Based Learning – Emphasizes mastery of knowledge and skills regardless of the amount of time required and the method chosen to achieve mastery

Competency-Based Program – Learners master knowledge and skills at their own pace

Computer Aided Real-Time Captioning or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) – A professional types what is being said verbatim so that people can read the text output


Disability – A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual


Early Adopters – A user who has a tendency to embrace new technology before the majority

Equitable Use – Principle of universal design that states design should be appealing, useful, and marketable to people of all abilities


Flexibility in Use – Principle of universal design that states design should accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities

Focusable – Clickable elements you can move between using your keyboard Low physical effort, principle of universal design that states users should be able to use items efficiently and comfortably with minimum fatigue


Graceful Degradation – When a site utilizes new technology, if disabled, the content maintains effectiveness for the users


Heat Maps – Color-based representations of areas of interest/focus points; generally associated with eye-tracking software


Internationalization – A system whose primary design has been developed to work in multiple languages and in the cultural contexts of different locales




Late Adopters – Individuals who are hesitant to adopt new technology

Localization – Customizing or personalizing a national or international product for a local market

Learning Management System (LMS) – a website or program that instructors use to do such things as deliver course content to students, post grades, communicate with students, and collect assignments, i.e. Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Sakai, and many others

Long Descriptions – Descriptions that are written for complex figures and tagged via the long desc attribute; though not currently supported by most Web browsers, the long desc attribute is a planned feature in the next iteration of Firefox

Luminance Contrast Ratio – A measure of the difference between foreground and background; specific minimal values are recommended via WCAG 2.0


Major life activities – Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working

Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) 1.0 – Guidelines for improving the user experience on the web when accessed from mobile devices; there is much overlap between techniques used to make web apps work on mobile devices and techniques used to make content accessible to people with disabilities

Motor Disabilities – Difficulty or inability to use the hands, including tremors, muscle slowness, loss of fine motor control, etc. due to conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and stroke



Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education – Legally responsible for receiving and investigating complaints of discrimination against colleagues and universities

On-Screen Keyboard – An image of a keyboard at the bottom of the monitor allows users with limited hand and arm mobility to trigger a switch that selects the desired key

Operable – Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) that states web pages must make all functionality keyboard accessible, give users enough time to read and use content, not use content that causes seizures, and help users navigate and find content

Overlay Keyboards – An overlay keyboard is a specialized keyboard with no pre-set keys; each key can be programmed with a wide range of different functions and make typing easier or more accurate for those who have motor control difficulties


Perceivable – Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) that states web pages must provide text alternatives for non-text content, provide captions and alternatives for audio and video content, make content adaptable and available to assistive technologies and use sufficient contrast to make things easy to see and hear

Perceptible Information – Principle of universal design that states design should communicate necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities

Programmatic Focus – Where the computer’s focus is on a web page


Quality Matters Rubric – 43 standards assigned different points depending on their relative importance used to evaluate online course design


Robust – Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) that states web pages must maximize compatibility with current and future technologies


Screen Magnification Software – This is software, which enlarges what is displayed on the computer monitor, making it easier to read for vision impaired users

Screen Reader – Assistive technology that reads web pages out loud for people who cannot read text; it’s an app that traverses a web page’s code and reads aloud on-screen text, described images, and identifies navigation and links

Section 504 – While Section 508 pertains only to federal agencies; there is some gray area as to whether it also pertains to recipients of federal funds since Section 504 prohibits federally funded entities from discriminating on the basis of disability

Section 508 – Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals; under Section 508, federal agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others

Selection Switches – Assistive technology for people who cannot use a keyboard or a mouse

Simple and Intuitive – Principle of universal design that states design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level

Size and Space for Approach and Use – Principle of universal design that states design should allow everyone access and use of all components regardless of body size, posture, or degree of mobility

Skip Navigation/Jump Links – Lets a user “jump” the focus state farther down the page without having to tab through all the links in between

Speech Recognition Software – This is a software that can accept spoken commands to the computer or turn dictation into grammatically correct text; used by people who have difficulty using a mouse or a keyboard


Text Alternatives – Provide an equivalent user experience for non-text content by conveying the purpose of the image or function, i.e. icons, buttons, and other graphics instead of images; text or audio description of data to accompany charts, diagrams and illustrations; transcripts, captions, narration and sign language interpretation of audio and video files; labels on form controls, input, and other user interface components

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – Formulates standards for web design

Tolerance for Error – Principle of universal design that states design should minimize the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions

Transcript – A text only version of what’s said in a movie or television program; not real time and generally are limited to speech only


U.S. Access Board – Independent federal agency that educates people on accessibility design for individuals with disabilities

Understandable – Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) that states web pages must make text readable and understandable, make content appear and operate in predictable ways, and help users avoid and correct mistakes

Universal Design – The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design; to make learning inclusive for all students, not just those with disabilities

Universal Design for Learning – Movement developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to apply the seven principles of universal design to education; flexible approach to curriculum design that offers all learners full and equal opportunities to learn

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines – Provide multiple means of representation, provide multiple means of action and expression, and provide multiple means of engagement

User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) – Guidelines developed through the WAI that explain how to make user agents (web browsers, media players, and assistive technologies like screen readers and screen magnifiers) accessible to people with disabilities

User Agents – Software that people use to access web content, i.e. desktop graphical browsers, voice browsers, mobile phone browsers, multimedia players, plug-ins, and some assistive technologies


Visual Disabilities – Visual impairments include blindness, various common types of low vision and poor eyesight, and various types of color blindness

Visual Focus – Where the user’s focus is on a Web page; generally represented by a dashed box that appears around items on the page and associated with tabbing

Voice Recognition Software – Allows the user to control the computer by speaking commands aloud, allows the user to input text

VoiceOver – A built-in screen reader application on Apple computers


WAVE Chrome Extension – An automated tool you can use to evaluate the accessibility of web content in Google Chrome

Web Accessibility – Making products and services available to all users, regardless of visual, verbal, motor, and cognitive abilities

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) – A World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) initiative to make web pages accessible to people with disabilities and to the adaptive technologies they commonly use

Web Content – Text, images, sounds, forms, code, markup, scripts and other components of a web page or web application

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – Technical standards created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – W3C is the main international organization that determines the protocols and standards for the World Wide Web




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