Disability inclusion glossary

ableism: Prejudice and/or discrimination against people with disabilities.

accessibility: The quality of being easily used, entered, or reached by people with disabilities; refers to the design of products, devices, services, curricula, or environments.

accessible technology: A technology that’s been designed with the needs of a lot of different users in mind and with built-in customization features so that users can individualize their experience to meet their needs.

accommodation: See reasonable accommodation

adaptive technology: Adjusted versions of existing technologies or tools so people with disabilities can more easily use them; helps individuals with disabilities accomplish a specific task.

ADHD: Short for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition characterized by symptoms that include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. But not all of these need to be present for a person to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A 1990 law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services.

Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA): A 2008 law that made a significant number of changes to the definition of “disability” under the ADA and made it easier for individuals seeking protection under the ADA to establish that they have a disability within the meaning of the statute.

aphasia: A brain-based disorder that can affect language learning, speaking, listening, comprehension, reading and/or writing.

Asperger’s syndrome: A condition characterized by difficulty with social interactions, unusual or repetitive behaviors, a narrow range of interests, awkward or clumsy movements, and trouble with some aspects of communication, such as understanding sarcasm or body language. In 2013, doctors changed the way they diagnose this disorder. It is now one of several conditions included under the category “autism spectrum disorder.”

assistive technology: Any item, piece of equipment, or product system used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capacities of individuals with disabilities.

autism spectrum disorder: A developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulty with social interactions and communication. Often referred to as autism or ASD, it includes symptoms such as poor eye contact, repetitive body movements, and difficulty adapting to social situations and responding to sensory input such as certain tastes or textures.

blindness: Total blindness refers to not being able to see anything at all.

business resource group (BRG): Internal organizations at companies where groups of employees with common needs, interests, backgrounds, demographic factors, or life experiences can receive professional development and support as part of the company’s business plan.

captioning: Process of narrating all significant audio content in presentations, video, and other visual formats by using words or symbols to transcribe spoken dialogue, identify speakers, and describe music and sound effects. 

deafness: Hearing loss so severe that there’s little or no functional hearing, even when sound is amplified.

developmental coordination disorder (DCD): People with DCD may have difficulty planning and performing tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing, tying shoelaces, or using buttons or zippers; sometimes called dyspraxia.

developmental disability: A severe, long-term disability due to an impairment in a physical, learning, language, or behavior area. It can affect cognitive ability, physical functioning, or both.

disability: Defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. A disability can be visible or invisible.

disability inclusion: The process of creating a workplace where all individuals, including people with disabilities, are not only employed but are full members of the work community.

disclosure: When an employee with a disability shares information about their disability with others, often their employer, supervisor, prospective employer, or co-worker.

discrimination: Treating people differently, or less favorably, on the basis of identity, such as disability, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

dyscalculia: A specific learning disability in math. Some people with dyscalculia have difficulty performing calculations and solving problems. Others struggle with basic math operations like multiplication and division.

dysgraphia: A specific learning disability in writing. People with dysgraphia struggle with handwriting, typing, and spelling. Some people have difficulty with other aspects of writing, like grammar, punctuation, and organizing and expressing their ideas in writing. 

dyslexia: A specific learning disability in reading. People with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently. They may also have trouble with reading comprehension, spelling, and writing.

dyspraxia: Sometimes called developmental coordination disorder. People with dyspraxia may have difficulty planning and performing tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing, tying shoelaces, or using buttons or zippers.

employee resource group (ERG): Voluntary, internal, employee-led groups at companies where groups of employees with common needs, interests, backgrounds, demographic factors, or life experiences can connect for purposes of professional development and support.

employment gap: The lower rate of employment that people with disabilities experience compared to people without disabilities.

employment-population ratio: The proportion of the population that is employed.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The government agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.

essential job function: Fundamental duties of a job.

federal contractor: Companies or individuals who enter into a contract with the United States to do a certain job, sell services or products, or provide materials and labor.

federal subcontractor: A company that does business with another company that has contracts with the federal government.

hard of hearing: Hearing loss where there may be enough residual hearing that a device like a hearing aid provides enough assistance for the person to process speech.

hearing loss: A general term that describes a broad range of hearing function, including deaf or hard of hearing. It’s the total or partial inability to hear sounds and can affect one or both ears.

identity-first language: A term that describes how individuals with disabilities prefer to refer to themselves. Those who see their disability as an important part of their self-identity may prefer to use language that refers to their disability, such as “a blind person.” Only refer to someone this way if you know that’s their preference. Otherwise, use person-first language.

inclusion: See disability inclusion

intellectual disability: A disability characterized by limitations in a person’s ability to learn at an expected level. A person with an intellectual disability may process information more slowly and have difficulty with abstract concepts and everyday behaviors and activities. Often referred to as a cognitive disability. 

invisible disability: A disability that is not immediately apparent; sometimes called a hidden disability.

job coach: An individual who supports a person with a disability throughout their professional journey, with the ultimate goal of helping them work independently. They provide one-on-one training, tailored to a particular person’s needs, for a particular job.

learning disability: A condition that results in learning challenges or difficulties in particular skill areas, such as reading or math. People with learning disabilities receive, store, process, retrieve, or communicate certain information in different and less-effective ways. Often referred to as LD, these difficulties are not connected to intelligence and are not caused by problems with hearing or vision or by lack of educational opportunity.

low vision: Permanently reduced and uncorrectable vision loss that interferes with daily activities.

natural supports: Social supports that already exist in the workplace, including people and personal relationships; often provided by professional colleagues, such as mentoring, feedback on job performance, friendship, or socializing outside of work.

neurodiversity: The idea that brain differences such as autism are normal variations in the human population, rather than deficits or disorders; neurodiversity can also refer to embracing such differences. 

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP): Part of the Department of Labor; responsible for enforcing nondiscrimination laws related to federal contractors and subcontractors and compliance with legal requirement to take affirmative action.

person-first language: A term that describes how individuals with disabilities prefer to refer to themselves. It’s best practice to put people first, not their disability. Unless a person specifically prefers identity-first language, always use person-first language, such as “a person who is blind.”

physical accessibility: A form of accessibility that focuses on making physical spaces, such as elevators, reserved parking spots, and restroom stalls, accessible to people who use wheelchairs or who have other physical impairments. 

physical disability: A wide range of conditions, both visible and invisible, that affect a person’s movement. Also referred to as a mobility challenge.

reasonable accommodation: An adjustment or modification to a job or work environment that allows an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, or enjoy benefits equal to those offered to employees who do not have a disability.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab 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 and subcontractors.

Section 503: Section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against people with disabilities and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain people with disabilities.

Section 504: Section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or by any program or activity conducted by a federal executive agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Section 508: Section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

self-identification: An employee telling their employer or potential employer, as part of an affirmative action initiative or goals set as part of a disability inclusion initiative, that they have or ever had a disability.

sensory processing issues: Difficulties in organizing information from the senses, such as over- or under-responding to sights, sounds, smells, touch, and sensory input related to balance and movement; often co-occurs with ADHD or autism.

supplier diversity: The practice of encouraging the procurement of supplies from minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, and disability-owned vendors, both as primary contractors and subcontractors.

turnover rate: Percentage of a company’s employees who stop working there within a given amount of time.

unemployment rate: Percentage of unemployed workers in the total labor force.

universal design: The process of creating objects or environments such as workplaces that can be used by the widest possible range of people.

Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA): Prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against protected veterans and requires employers with federal contracts or subcontracts of $100,000 or more to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these veterans.

visual impairment: A general term that describes a broad range of visual function, from low vision through total blindness. 

vocational rehabilitation (VR): A state-supported division of services that assists individuals with disabilities in preparing for, securing, regaining, or retaining meaningful employment.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC): A federal tax credit that is available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.

workplace flexibility: Adjustments to where, when, and how an employee works to better accommodate their personal needs. Examples include part-time or flexible hours and the ability to work remotely.

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