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Listed below are commonly used terms relating to the employment of and public accommodations for persons with disabilities. They are generally accepted definitions, but may not have legal standing.

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Accessible: In plain English, it simply means that a physical facility or a program is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, or use safely and with dignity by people with disabilities (i.e., site, facility, service, or program). 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 all individuals can participate, with or without auxiliary aid(s). Under the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) will issue standards that define what is meant by "accessible technology." These Standards were published December 21, 2000 and became effective on June 21, 2001. See

Adaptive Transportation: This can mean a lift-equipped vehicle; a vehicle capable of handling nonstandard wheelchairs; and/or a transportation service with staff trained to serve people who cannot travel independently (some people with visual or cognitive impairments).

Affirmative Action: Positive action to accomplish the purpose of a program designed to increase the employment opportunities of certain groups. It may involve goals, timetables, or specifically outlined steps to be undertaken to assure that objectives are reached. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not mandate affirmative action for persons with disabilities but does require that covered entities ensure nondiscrimination. Title V, Section 503, of the Rehabilitation Act does require that affirmative action be taken in employment considerations of people with disabilities by Federal contractors.

ALD: See Assistive Listening Devices.

Alternate Formats: Alternate formats may include, but are not limited to, Braille, ASCII text, large print, and audiocassette recording or computer disc format.

Alternate Modes: Different means of providing information to users of products including product documentation and information about the status or operation of controls. Examples of alternate modes may include, but are not limited to, voice, fax, relay service, TTY, Internet posting, captioning, text to speech synthesis, and video description.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A comprehensive civil rights law which makes it unlawful to discriminate in private sector employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services and employment, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.

Amplifying Telephone Receivers: Telephone receivers with a volume control built into the handgrip are available for a small additional fee from the telephone company. They allow a person who is hearing impaired to amplify the incoming conversation.

ASL Interpreter: This person interprets spoken English into American Sign Language, the sign language used by some people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Assistive Technology: Technology designed to be utilized in an assistive technology device or assistive technology service. The term "assistive technology device" means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs): An ALD is a device that picks up sounds (voice, music, etc.) at or close to its source, amplifies it and delivers it to the user's ear. An ALD has advantages over conventional amplification systems. Because the signal to be listened to is the primary sound picked up by the ALD system and transmitted to the user's ear. The individual's perception of sound or speech is significantly improved. ALDs can improve interpersonal communication in a variety of listening situations including meetings and other forms of public assembly for individuals with hearing impairments.

  1. Audio Loop System
    In an audio loop system, a type of ALD, a loop of wire is placed around a seating area and connected to the public address system or an amplifier if a PA system is not available. Individuals with hearing impairments who are wearing a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil or who are using a portable loop receiver are seated within the audio loop. An electrical current flowing through the loop creates a magnetic sound field that is picked up by the induction wire in the receiver/hearing aid. The hearing aid or the portable receiver both have volume control capability so that the sound level can be controlled by the person using the audio loop.
  2. Infrared Systems
    In an infrared system, a type of ALD, an infrared light emitter is connected to a public address system or its own amplifier and the sound going into the microphones is converted into invisible infrared light beams which are sent out by the emitter, carrying the sound to infrared receivers worn by the listener. The receiver converts the light beams back into sound and contains a volume control so the listener can adjust the loudness of the sound while receiving the beam through a headset, earplug or personal neck loop connected to the receiver.
  3. FM and AM Radio Systems
    Certain frequencies within the range of FM and AM radio signal transmission have been set aside by the Federal Communications Commission for the specific use of enhancing communication for persons with hearing impairments who can benefit from FM or AM radio transmitted speech or sound signals. This signal is picked up by microphones, goes through an FM or AM transmitter, which may or may not be plugged into a public address system, sent out to a portable receiver tuned to the same radio frequency. Receivers resemble a small pocket radio connected by a cord to headphones or an earplug. An individual neckloop can also be plugged into the receiver to be used by persons with a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil.
  4. Hard-Wired Systems
    This is often the simplest and least expensive option for enhancing receptive communication capability for persons with hearing impairments, but it can also be the most difficult to use. Sound input through microphones to an amplifier (possibly a part of an existing PA system), travels via wire to a plug-in receptacle where a headset, earplug or individual neck loop can be connected to receive the signal. Hard-wire systems in facilities such as churches can have an elaborate network of wires installed permanently, or they can consist of a small microphone, short wire and a headset used between two people sitting in a car. Tangled or loose wires can be bothersome and dangerous if not used carefully.

Audio Taped Materials: There is a standard method for producing audiotapes for people who are print impaired. Guidelines can be provided by the OEODM Disability Program staff upon request.

Audio-Description: Audio description is a verbal depiction of a visual event for persons with visual impairments. In short, it is "the art of talking pictorially." An audio describer acts as a verbal camera lens serving as the eyes for a low vision or blind individual. To make the arts accessible to persons with visual impairments the audio describer verbally recreates colors, settings, costumes, physical characteristics and body language. A person with visual impairments can then gain a fuller appreciation of a live theater production, art exhibit, movie or videotape. Audio description has been most widely used in the live theater but, it is also currently being used on film soundtracks on a limited basis and efforts are underway to develop descriptive videotape services. Audio description for television is also being developed and may soon be available to the same extent that closed captioning for television is now available for viewers with hearing impairments. Stereo television sets are already equipped to handle audio description. A stereo television has a secondary audio programming channel allocated by the Federal Communication Commission for foreign language translation or audio description. Non stereo television owners can purchase adaptive equipment for one-hundred to two-hundred dollars that allows the audio description to be received or can use a stereo VCR as a receiver to receive audio description on a non-stereo television without an adapter. (See American Council of the Blind for further information:

Auxiliary Aids and Services: Devices or services that accommodate a functional limitation of a person with a communication disability. The term includes qualified interpreters and communication devices for people who are deaf or hard of hearing; qualified readers, taped texts, Braille, or other devices for people with vision impairments; adaptive equipment or similar services and actions for people with other communication disabilities.

Barriers: Some common standards that eliminate barriers are: Walks: 4-foot minimum width; Doors: 32-inch minimum clear opening; Telephone: highest operable part not over 48 inches from the floor.

Braille: Braille is a system of embossed characters formed by using a Braille cell: a combination of six dots consisting of two vertical columns of three dots each. Each simple Braille character is formed by one or more of these dots and occupies a full cell or space. Braille is often produced using a Braille writer.

Braille Computer Terminals: A Braille computer terminal is one that can be interfaced with existing on-site or remote information processing systems. When connected to computers or data banks, they can deliver Brailled pages of information at a rate of up to 100 words per minute. Students can request information on a standard keyboard and obtain a Brailled response in a matter of seconds.

Braille Materials: Materials provided by the conference planners need to be in Braille if someone has requested that format. You can contact the Volunteer Braillists for small amounts of material and for guidance on getting larger amounts Brailled. The campus Facilities Accessibility Specialist can also give guidance on getting materials translated into Braille. It is anticipated that in the near future there will be equipment on campus to produce Braille. Brailled materials must be in Grade 2 Braille; Brailled materials should be proofread by a Braille-literate person prior to distribution.

Brailled Books: Brailled books are books with Brailled text, rather than printed. Most of the legally blind population does not read Braille. About seven and one-half percent of this population use Braille as their primary reading mode. Braille is extremely bulky and requires a great deal of storage space.

Brailler: The Perkins Brailler is an all purpose Braillewriter enclosed in a baked gray enamel aluminum case. It is operated by six keys. There are spacing, line advancing, and back spacing keys. Extension keys are available which allow the user to emboss the full Braille cell by one stroke of either hand leaving the other hand free to read Brailled material which is being copied.

Captioning for Television and Video Tapes/Movies: Refers to the process in which the audio portion of a TV program or videotape is converted into printed words or description to be read by persons unable to hear or understand these sounds or words. Most TV programs are pre-recorded and these are captioned in the same way as video tape movies, training and education productions - after the program has been recorded. On the other hand, live broadcasts, such as news and sporting events, need to utilize what is called "real-time captioning," a much more difficult process in terms of accurately reporting what has been said. Captioning is available in two primary modes - open or closed.

  • Open Captioning: If a video or TV program is captioned so that the text of the spoken words is readily visible to anyone watching the program/tape, this is called open captioning. An example of this would be the subtitles used to show, in printed English language, what persons speaking in another language are saying in foreign film productions since the subtitles are there for everyone to see, whether they need them or not.
  • Closed Captioning: The vast majority of captioning being done for video tapes/movies and television programs, including real-time captioning, is closed captioned. This means that the captions will not be seen by viewers who are not using a "caption decoding device." Until 1993, the primary device used for this process was a closed caption decoder which was a separate converter box that had to be connected to the TV or VCR if captions were to be shown on the screen. Since July of 1993, all TV sets built or sold in the USA had to include a caption decoder micro chip that would allow closed captions to be decoded if so desired. Public gathering places such as restaurants and bars which have televisions available for entertaining patrons are increasingly using the captioning capability on their sets rather than turning up the volume so that the patrons do not have to listen to the program (or watch it) if they do not wish to. At the same time, persons with hearing impairments are requesting the captions be available if they choose to watch TV while there.

Captioned Films: Public Law 85-905 established the Captioned Films Program to provide for distribution of captioned films through appropriate agencies to bring to persons who are deaf or blind an understanding and appreciation of those films that play a part in the general and cultural advancement of society. Theatrical, short subject, documentary, training, and educational films for adults are available. Certain copyright restrictions apply to showings. Captioning is available in print subtitles for persons who are deaf, and descriptive voice-over's for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

Closed Circuit TV Magnifier: CCTV consists of a television camera which views the printed page or other materials and a television monitor which displays the image in enlarged form. Light and dark contrast can be adjusted. Most models allow reversing the image from black on white to white on black depending on individual needs. Students commonly refer to these by brand name (Visualtek, Apollo, etc.).

Computer Assisted Notetaking (CAN): CAN is the use of computer technology to provide live notes during a meeting or lecture. A typist types as much as possible of the spoken content of the meeting/class on a computer keyboard and those notes are displayed on a monitor and can be projected onto a larger screen or wall. Depending on the skill of the typist, the computer software used, and the speed of the speech or dialogue, the output by the typist can vary from summary notes to near verbatim captions. Since less equipment and training/skills are used in CAN sessions, these are considerably less expensive than the CART services, while the CART services are much more desirable by consumers due to the greater information they offer.

Computer Aided Real Time Transcription (CART): CART is a service, much in the same way that interpreting is a service, facilitating communication between persons who use speech to express themselves and persons unable to fully understand spoken language due to significant hearing loss. A CART reporter types phonetic shorthand outlines onto the keyboard of a 24-key stenograph machine connected to a computer. The shorthand outlines are sent from the stenotype machine to the computer, equipped with a shorthand dictionary and a special software program which translates the outlines, with less than a one second delay, into English text and displays this text onto a computer monitor. Additional technology such as display panels and overhead projectors allows the text to be read by many persons at the same time. This is the same technology and service used to provide real time captioning for live television programs such as news and sports events. CART allows a person with hearing impairments to read the verbatim proceedings of a meeting or class in "real-time" and thus become an active participant. The information entered by the reporter can also be saved on a disk and printed out for use as notes or a record of meeting activities.

Curb Cut: Also called a curb ramp, it is a depression built into the curb of a sidewalk to permit passage by a wheelchair. The incline should not exceed a gradient of 1:12 and the flat surface width should be no less than 4 feet wide.

Disability: An "individual with a disability" is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a "major life activity," or has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Disability: The broadest definition of disability can be found in Americans With Disabilities Act:

  • A person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • A person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or
  • A person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

This broad definition forms the basis of civil rights of people with disabilities and is used as the core definition of disability for all the Federal government legal and regulatory compliance responsibilities as it relates to both physical and programmatic access.

Equal Employment Opportunity: Nondiscrimination in hiring, firing, compensation, promotion, recruitment, training, and other terms and conditions of employment regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, or disability.

Essential Job Functions: The fundamental job duties of the employment position that the individual with a disability holds or desires. The term does not include marginal functions of the position.

Federal Information Relay Services (FIRS): FIRS acts as an intermediary between individuals with hearing or speech impairments who must use a TTY to communicate via telephone and persons who do not need to use a TTY. This service is available between 24-hours per day, 365 days per year, except for Federal Government holidays. To use the FIRS, call 1.800.877.8339. If making a local call outside of the Federal government setting, it is also possible to use any of the state relay services, any of which can be reached by dialing 711 or their direct number, which should be readily available in the local phone directory. For more information on relay communications or to obtain a FIRS brochure, please call 1.800.877.0996 (Voice or TTY).

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 names and convenience.

Head Pointer: A head pointer is a stick or rod which is attached to a person's head by means of a head band so that by moving the head an individual can perform tasks that would ordinarily be performed by hand or finger movement.

Hearing Aid: A hearing aid consists of a receiver and amplifier of sound. All sounds in the environment are amplified with the same intensity. A hearing aid does not sort, process or discriminate among sounds. Because someone is wearing a hearing aid it does not mean that the person can hear normally. Aids do not correct hearing, but they improve hearing in some people. They may enable someone to hear a voice even though he or she may not be able to understand words.

Individual with a Disability: A person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person's major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or who is regarded as having such an impairment.

Interpreter: An Interpreter is a professional who typically facilitates communication between persons who are Deaf and use sign language and hearing persons who do not. An interpreter (technically, a transliterator) may also facilitate the communication of persons who are not easily lip-readable for the benefit of oral deaf persons.

Large Print Materials: 16 point type is the standard size to use for large print. Use the computer, not the copier, to get large print if at all possible. If the copier must be used, enlarge to 150 percent (for standard typewritten materials) and manually adjust copier to achieve best contrast. Use black print on white paper; yellow paper is also acceptable.

Major Life Activity: Basic activities that the average person in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty, including caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Materials on Computer Disk: Provide materials in ASCII format. Use double-sided, double-density disks. Provide materials in DOS unless a person requests otherwise. Provide materials on both five and one-quarter inch and three and one-half inch disks.

Mouth Wand: A mouth wand is a rod with a tooth grip that is held in the mouth and used to perform tasks that would ordinarily be performed by hand. Various attachments may allow the individual to type, draw, paint, etc.

Oral Interpreter: A person who explains what is happening to someone who is blind or who has limited vision. For example, a video will be shown that has limited conversation but lots of movement. The oral interpreter would explain the actions on the video to the person with limited or no vision.

Orientation & Mobility Specialist: This person shows a person who is blind or who has cognitive disabilities around the lodging and/or meeting sites, to familiarize them with the facilities.

Paperless Braille Machines: These devices record and store Braille characters on magnetic tape cassettes from a Braille keyboard. Playback is through a paperless display panel or reading board. A 60-minute cassette can store up to 400 pages of Braille.

PDF: Portable Document Format is the format of Adobe Acrobat documents. The format displays text documents in a graphic format that cannot be read by a screen reader used by persons who use screen readers because screen readers require characters.

Qualified Individual with a Disability: An individual with a disability who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the employment position that the individual holds or desires, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.

Raised Line Drawings: Charts, graphs, and diagrams can be reproduced for use by blind students by using a raised line drawing board which consists of a rubber-like clipboard over which pieces of plastic film are placed. Patterns are then traced on the plastic film with a sharp instrument causing the plastic to stretch and raise. An easier method for creating raised line drawings consists of "tracing" over the lines of the chart or diagram with Elmer's glue, which, when dry results in a raised drawing that blind students can use as they would Braille.

Ramp: A ramp should be at least 4 feet in width and have a gradient no greater than 1 unit of rise per 12 units of run.

Reader: A reader is a volunteer or employee who reads printed material in person or onto audiotape.

Readily Achievable: Able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action is readily achievable, factors to be considered include the nature and cost of the action, overall financial resources and the effect on expenses and resources, legitimate safety requirements, impact on the operation of a site, and, if applicable, overall financial resources, size, and type of operation of any parent corporation or entity.

Reading Machines: These devices convert printed materials as found in books, magazines, periodicals, typewritten letters, and reports, in different type styles and sizes of type, into spoken synthetic English speech which is understandable after a relatively short period of practice.

Reasonable Accommodation:

  1. modification or adjustment to a job application process that enables a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position, or
  2. modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position is customarily performed, that enables qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the position, or
  3. modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are afforded its other similarly-situated employees without disabilities.

Recorded Books: Recordings for the Blind (RFB), a national nonprofit voluntary organization which is supported primarily by contributions from the public, provides taped educational books, free on loan, to print impaired elementary, high school, college, and graduate students, as well as to non students who require specialized reading material in their professions or vocations. Many community-based volunteer agencies produce books in recorded form. Contact the Braille and Talking Book Library for information. The Library of Congress, also, runs a National Library Service with recorded books.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID): The RID Inc., a national organization with over 50 chapters, was organized in 1964 for the purpose of providing interpreting/transliterating services to the deaf of America and its trust territories. In addition, the RID has members from other nations.

Relief Maps: The American Printing House for the Blind markets some relief maps with the appropriate Braille keys and some "puzzle"-style maps.

Residual Hearing: Residual hearing is the amount of hearing remaining after hearing loss. Few people who are deaf hear no sound at all.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended: The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title V of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 sets forth several important assurances and protection pertaining to the rights of people with disabilities. This Act applies to the Federal government as an employer and in the administration of its conducted programs, Federal contractors, and entities receiving Federal funds. The protections include:

Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended): Nondiscrimination Under Federal Grants and Programs. Prohibits discrimination of qualified persons with disabilities in Federally funded and conducted programs, not only in employment but in the provision of services to include education, health services, loans, grants, etc. Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service. Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter before going to court.

Section 508 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended): Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they shall ensure that the electronic and information technology allows Federal employees with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

Screen Reader: A program that audibly reads the text on a computer screen that provides access to a Web site for a person with visual or specific learning disabilities.

Screen Magnification: Enlarges the image or text on a computer screen, used primarily by people with low vision.

Service Animals: These animals provide assistance for people with blindness, deafness and mobility limitations (i.e., dogs, monkeys, parrots). Federal laws permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities into most locations, including restaurants. The lodging and/or meeting sites should be prepared to welcome certified service animals and to give people who use these animals necessary information such as where to toilet the animal. Service animals are legally permitted to accompany their master into buildings, including all Federal and state buildings, hotels, motels, restaurants, grocery stores, airplanes, trains, and buses. To refuse entry to any of these places is a violation of the law, punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

People who use service animals will have a record of certification with them.

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 hearing impaired. 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, when crossing streets, etc.

Sighted Guides: When the conference entails moving from session to session, guides are necessary for persons who are blind or who have cognitive disabilities to help them move safely from one session to another. When serving as a sighted guide for an individual who is blind, and only when that person has agreed to accept assistance, let the person take your arm (right or left depending on the person's preference). Walk about one half step ahead. She/he 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.

Sign Language: The American Sign Language (ASL) is one form of manual communication used by Americans who are deaf. Sign language is not universal. Persons who are deaf from different countries speak different sign languages. The gestures or symbols in sign language are organized in a linguistic way. Each individual gesture is called a sign. Each sign has three distinct parts: the hand shape, the position of the hand, and the movement of the hands. The ways on which the signs of ASL are combined are unique to it. They are not based on English or any other spoken language. An alternative sign system known as Manually Coded English (MCE) includes Signing Exact English (SEE). Another system known as Pidgin Sign English (PSE) includes ASL signs but uses English word order.

Signed-English Interpreter: This person interprets spoken English into signed English, the sign language used by some people who are deaf.

Slate and Stylus: The traditional method for writing Braille is by hand. Slates are made of metal or plastic frames or guides. A pointed steel punch with a handle called a stylus is used to punch the Braille dots. Each guide or frame consists of two parts connected at the left end by a hinge. The face of the bottom of the frame is pitted with four lines of a series of six small, round depressions corresponding to the shape and spacing of the dots of the Braille cell. To write on a slate, paper is inserted between the top and bottom of the frame and is held in place by small pins. The Braille dots are punched downward into the paper. This makes it necessary to write from right to left in order that, when the paper is turned over in position for reading, the Braille characters can be read from left to right.

Sound Amplification Systems: A sound amplification system is a wireless electronic amplification system consisting of an instructor microphone/transmitter, binaural student FM receiver, and a recharging unit. The system allows the student who is hard of hearing to have personal amplification in the classroom setting. Newer models are available that are very compact and inconspicuous.

Tactile Interpreter: A person who interprets for an individual who is deaf-blind. The interpreter will sign (or translate) to the person by touch.

Talking Calculators: Various models of hand-held or desk-type calculators, as well as software programs, that "speak" are available and come with an assortment of basic functions from independent memory to accumulating memory. The Library of Congress distributes a "Reference Circular" that provides information on available models and manufacturers. Calculators with Braille output are also available, although not in common use.

Telecaptioned Television: Telecaptioned television is a broadcast television carrying a hidden or encoded English language caption of the audio signal. Decoders place white letters in black boxes in the bottom portion of the screen. Usually referred to as “Captioned Television.”

Telecommunications Devices/Services for Individuals with Hearing Impairments - Tele Typewriter (TTY)/Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD): Known as the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf or Teletypewriter, the TDD/TTY is a device which enables someone who has a speech or hearing impairment to use a telephone when communicating with someone else who has a TDD/TTY. While there are several brands, TDD/TTYs have several features in common. They either have a digital readout or a paper tape, can run off direct current or battery power, or type in letters or numbers. TDD/TTYs can be used with any telephone, and one needs only a basic typing ability to use them.

TTY is the original term used for telephone equipment that has also come to be known as TDDs. It is the most popular TDD and is used as the preferred term in referring to this type of communication device used by people with hearing impairments. These devices allow individuals with hearing or speech impairments to communicate directly via telephone with another person who is also using this device because the conversation is typed, not spoken. They come in many forms, including computer software programs. Most are completely portable and some are located in a fixed position such as public pay phones. Some TTY/TDD's have especially large print displays to assist persons with visual impairments, and others are capable of generating paper print-outs, which are useful when an agency needs to maintain a permanent record of the telephone call (with ethical considerations being weighed). The choice of a TTY/TDD should be made carefully and after an agency has determined how and where it will be used.

Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS): Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that telephone companies provide local and long-distance TRS across the nation. These are 24-hour-per-day, every-day services allowing persons otherwise unable to use the telephone due to hearing or speech impairments to have equal access to the telecommunication systems. The phone number of local TRS service providers are available in local area phone books and instructions related to the use of these services are available from the service providers.

Telephone Amplification Devices

  1. Hearing Aid Telecoils: Generally speaking, hearing aids amplify sound picked up by the microphone of the aid. Behind-the-ear and in-the-ear hearing aids can be fitted to pick up electromagnetic signals by inserting an induction coil in the aid. This coil is also known as a "telecoil", "T-coil," or T-switch. In order for the hearing aid telecoil to work with a telephone, the telephone must emit or leak a sufficiently strong electromagnetic field. With the proper telephone and a good T-coil, background noise can be greatly reduced and the quality of the sound coming through the phone will be enhanced considerably. Likewise, the T-coil can be used with assistive listening devices, allowing the hearing aid to magnify the benefits of technology such as audio loops, infrared and FM systems.
  2. Telephone Adapter: A portable telephone adapter helps make phones with little or no electro-magnetic field become usable for hearing aid T-coil users by converting the acoustic sound to a stronger electro-magnetic field, which connects with the T-coil in the hearing aid. The telephone adapter is made especially for hearing aid users whose aids have a telephone switch but they also amplify sound coming through the handset for persons who do not have a hearing aid with a T-coil. An elastic strap easily attaches the adapter to the telephone receiver and it is powered by batteries.
  3. Amplification Devices:
    • Handset Amplifiers: Pay telephones and regular desktop telephones can be equipped with a handset that contains a volume control. This feature can amplify the voice signal coming over the telephone by as much as 30 percent.
    • Portable Amplifiers: Any telephone can be temporarily equipped with a portable amplification device that straps onto the earpiece of the telephone handset.
    • Permanent Amplifiers: Telephones can also be permanently equipped with desktop amplifiers and speakers to assist people with hearing impairments who use the phone. Assistive listening devices can also be used to adapt regular telephones, enhancing the signal or allowing an individual to use both ears in receiving the voice signal.

Text Browser: A program that runs on an Internet-connected computer that provides access to the World Wide Web. There are two kinds of Web browsers: text-only and graphical. Text-only browsers (Lynx, etc.) do not show in-line images, fonts, and document layouts.

Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Title of the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability by the Federal government, Federal contractors, by recipients of Federal financial assistance, and in federally-conducted programs and activities.

Undue Hardship: With respect to the provision of an accommodation, significant difficulty or expense incurred by a covered entity, when considered in light of certain factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation. Where the facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger organization is considered, as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization.

Universal Design Principles: Equitable use, Flexibility in use, Simple and intuitive use, Perceptible information, Tolerance for error, Low physical effort, and Size and space for approach and use. 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.

Universal Access: "The intent of the concept of Universal Access is to provide citizens with coordinated and improved access to government twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Government services should be accessible by all citizens regardless of various impairments, which may hamper one's ability to interact with government systems. The rapid explosion in the capacity to communicate and collect information electronically from almost any point has not only been a revolution for the general public, but it has also significantly expanded the opportunities for people with disabilities to provide information, pay fees and receive services and vital information electronically at their convenience."Usable: (in terms of equipment) Individuals with disabilities have access to the full functionality and documentation for the product, including instructions, product information (including accessible feature information), documentation, and technical support functionally equivalent to that provided to individuals without disabilities.

Video Description: Video description is an aural description of a program's key visual elements that is inserted during natural pauses in program dialogue. It generally describes actions that are not otherwise reflected in the dialogue, such as the movement of a person in a scene. Video description involves the insertion into a TV program of narrated descriptions of settings and actions that are not otherwise reflected in the dialogue, such as the movement of a person in the scene. Video description is typically provided on TV through the use of the Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) channel, so that it is audible only when that channel is activated through a TV set or a VCR with SAP capability.