Definitions of Disability Related Service Terms

Academic Accommodations / Adjustments Adjustments made in course materials or instructional methodology which do not change the essential nature or academic and technical standards of the course. Adjustments made in the physical attributes of a classroom such as provision of tables and/or chairs, which do not disrupt the essential activities of the class or program.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990  The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.  It mandates equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in areas such as employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Americans with Disabilities Ammendments Act of 2008 The ADAAA requires a broader interpretation of disability. Under the law, learning, reading, thinking and concentrating are all considered major life activities.

Assistive Technology Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities for individuals with disabilities.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD) Attention deficit disorder is a neurological disability characterized by inappropriate attention skills, impulsive behavior, and in some cases, hyperactivity.  The behaviors may include: fidgeting, difficulty remaining seated, difficulty following instructions, leaving tasks uncompleted, and appearing not to listen when others are speaking.

Blind Visual acuity (20/20 scale) and the range of peripheral vision evaluate a person’s vision.  Normal vision is defined as 20/20 visual acuity and an average range of 180 degrees in peripheral vision.  An individual is legally blind if after methods of correction, such as glasses or contact lenses, he/she has a visual acuity of 20/200 or higher denomination, or a range of peripheral vision under 20 degrees.

Closed Captioning Closed captioning allows individuals who are deaf or have limited hearing to view television and understand what is being said.  The words spoken on the television are written across the bottom of the screen so the person can follow the dialogue and action of the programs.

Communication Disabilities Communication disabilities include any visual, hearing, or speech impairments that limit a person’s ability to communicates.

Deaf-Blindness Deaf-blindness, or dual sensory impairment, is a combination of both visual and hearing impairments.  An individual with deaf-blindness can experience severe communication, educational, and other developmental problems.  A person with deaf-blindness cannot be accommodated by services focusing solely on visual impairments or solely on hearing impairments, so services must be specifically designed to assist individuals with deaf-blindness.

Deafness Deafness can be defined as a total or partial inability to hear.  An individual who is totally deaf is unable to hear with or without the use of a hearing aid, whereas a person who is partially deaf may be able to hear with the help of a hearing aid.  Deafness can be genetic or also acquired through disease, most commonly from meningitis is the child or rubella in the woman during pregnancy.

Descriptive Video Descriptive videos are designed for people who are visually impaired.  The videos provide additional narration which carefully describes the visual elements of the film, such as the action of the characters, location, and costumes, without interfering with the actual dialogue and sound effects.

Developmental Disability (DD) A developmental disability is a severe and long lasting disability which is the result if a mental and/or physical impairment.  It is likely to continue indefinitely and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more areas.  These areas include: self-care, self-direction, economic self-sufficiency, independent living, learning, receptive and expressive language, and mobility.

Disability Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act protects and considers a person disabled if he or she:  

  • has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities (including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, or performing manual tasks).
  • has a record of such impairment; or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

Documentation Verifying documents which verify a person’s mental or physical impairment and which describe the impairment adequately for the college to be able to determine the degree of resulting limitation on a major life activity to aid in the design of reasonable accommodations.

Essential Nature of a Course This is language from applicable case law; ref. The Davis decision.  Colleges need to identify the essential elements of each course requirement and curriculum program.  Colleges are not required to waive or substitute alternate courses in place of courses which are essential elements of programs.

Health Impairments The term, health impairments, refers to any type of chronic illness that affects how a person lives his or her life.  Common examples of health impairments are AIDS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc.

Hearing Impairment This term is used to describe any level of hearing loss, such as hard of hearing or deafness.

Hyperactivity Hyperactivity generally refers to a group of behavioral characteristics, such as aggressiveness, constant activity, impulsiveness, and distractibility.  The actual behaviors displayed include: fidgeting, an inability to remain seated or still, and excessive talking.  Hyperactivity is commonly associated with attention deficit disorder.

Learning Disability Learning disabilities is a broad term used to refer to disorders that affect a person’s ability to interpret what they see or hear and link information from different parts of the brain.  These disorders usually manifest as problems with reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematics.  Leaning disabilities are neurological, lifelong disorders, but can often be overcome through appropriate intervention and support.

Mental Illness The term mental illness, refers to any illness or disorder that has significant psychological or behavioral manifestations, is associated with painful or distressing symptoms, and impairs an individual’s level of functioning in certain areas of life.  There are several different types of mental illness with differing levels of severity.  Therapy and medication are the most common forms of treatment.

Mental Retardation* Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Mental retardation IDD is a mental disability that limits the intellectual capacity of an individual.  A person is considered to have mental retardation if they have an IQ below 70, the condition is present before age 18, and limitations exist in two or more adaptive skill areas.  The adaptive skill areas include communication, self-care, home-living, social skills, leisure, health and safety, self-direction, functional academics, and employment.

Preadmission Inquiry Institutions may not make preadmission inquiry as to whether an applicant for admissions has a disability.  Confidential inquires may be made after the candidate is admitted to determine if accommodations are needed. 

Reasonable Accommodation Academic adjustments (accommodation) or physical adjustments necessary to make a facility or activity accessible to qualified individuals with disabilities.  Once the individual is determined otherwise qualified, the known physical or mental limitation is to be accommodated unless it can be shown that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. 

Speech Impairments Speech impairments refers to disorders that impair an individual’s ability to verbally communicate.  This could include the ability to speak, the inability to maintain a flow or rhythm of speech (e.g., dysfluency or stuttering), or the inability to pronounce certain sounds.  Hearing impairments, neurological disorders, mental retardation, or physical impairments such as cleft palate can cause speech impairments.

Telecommunications Relay System (TTY) These are services (usually maintained by telephone companies) that will relay information verbally for those individuals whose communication must rely on electronic transmission due to a functional limitation; i.e., speech or hearing limitation.

Visual Impairment A visual impairment is an impairment of sight that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.  This includes individuals with low vision as well as people who are legally blind.