The world of accessible technology has a range of terms relating to the standards it adheres to and the software and hardware it uses. Here, we have collected a list of significant terms with their definitions. Click on the links below to jump to a specific letter, or just scroll down.
A, AA, AAA
The three levels of conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) checkpoints. For Level 'A' conformance (the minimum level of conformance), the web page satisfies all the Level 'A' Success Criteria; 'AA', all of the Level 'AA' Success Criteria, and 'AAA' all the Level ‘AAA’ Success Criteria.
Access To Work (ATW)
A UK government funding scheme run by Jobcentre Plus that provides financial assistance towards the extra costs of employing someone with a disability. Applications for Access to Work funding must be made by the person with the disability. The grant can cover costs related to support workers, fares to work, communicator support at job interviews, special equipment to help a disabled person function in the workplace or adjustments to premises or existing equipment.
Designing websites so as many people as possible can access them effectively and easily, independent of who they are, or how they access the web.
Accessibility Options (computer)
Most computer operating systems provide Accessibility Options so the user can quickly and easily select either a default high-contrast scheme, or one of their own design, from hot-keys. This is especially useful when using a computer which may be shared between many users.
A building designed or altered to ensure that people, including those with disabilities, can enter and move round freely and access its facilities.
IT that is accessible to all users.
AFILS (Audio Frequency Induction Loop System)
See Induction Loop or Assistive Listening Device
Alternative format refers to the transcription of books or other content (such as notes, newspapers or magazines) into a format other than standard print, which are accessible to people with specific impairments, for example Braille, audio description, captioning and Easy Read.
Alternative Input Device
An alternative input device allows individuals to control their computer using tools other than a standard keyboard or pointing device. Examples include alternative keyboards, electronic pointing devices, sip-and-puff systems, wands and sticks, joysticks, and trackballs.
A keyboard that varies from a standard keyboard in size, shape, layout, or function. An Alternative keyboard offers an individual with particular needs greater efficiency, control, or comfort. For example, a traditional QWERTY keyboard may be confusing to a person with a developmental disability and can be replaced with a keyboard that lists letters A-Z in big, bold letters and doesn’t contain a lot of “extra” keys. This makes focusing on spelling and typing words easier.
Alternative Text (ALT Text or ALT tags or ALT attribute)
Descriptive text attached to any non-text elements such as images, movies and animations on a web page written in HTML or XHTML. It is particularly important for web users who are blind and use screen reader software to make sense of a page, and will hear the alternative text in place of seeing the image.
American Sign Language (ASL)
The sign language used in the United States. See Sign Language
An expression appearing in UK Equality Act legislation. For businesses selling goods or providing services, the duty to make reasonable adjustments for customers with a disability is anticipatory; within reason, it is owed to all potential disabled customers and not just to those who are immediately known to the service provider.
Assistive Listening Device
Device used to aid individuals with hearing impairments to hear more clearly in public situations. The system can be set up to amplify conference speakers, radios, doorbells, and PA systems. Assistive Listening Devices can be used with or without a hearing aid. See Induction Loop, Infrared Audio System, and Radio Microphone Systems
Any item of software or hardware that has been specially designed to help improve access to a computer. Assistive Technology is used by people with a disability that makes ‘standard use’ difficult or uncomfortable. It is also used by people simply because it makes using a computer easier or more comfortable. Products in this category include screen reader software, speech recognition software, captioning and keyboards.
An additional narration track for people who have difficulty seeing what's happening in visual media (including television, on-demand players, cinema, DVD and Blu-ray discs, dance and theatre). Audio description consists of a narrator talking through the visuals, describing what is happening during the natural pauses in the audio.
Audio Induction Loop
See Induction Loop
A raised dot printed language used by people with visual impairments. Each raised dot arrangement represents a letter or word combination.
Braille Displays, Embossers and Translators
A Braille translator is a software program that translates text into Braille cells, and sends it to be output via a Braille Embosser or Braille Display. A Braille embosser is a printer, necessarily an impact printer, which renders text as tactile Braille cells. Braille embossers usually need special Braille paper which is thicker than normal paper. A Braille display is a tactile device consisting of a row of special 'soft' cells which move up and down to display characters as they appear on the display of a computer or Braille note taker. A number of cells are placed next to each other to form a soft or refreshable Braille line. As the pins of each cell pop up and down, they form a line of Braille text that can be read by touch.
British Sign Language (BSL)
The sign language used in the United Kingdom. See Sign Language
British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreter
See Sign Language Interpreter
BS 8878 Web Accessibility - Code of Practice
UK Code of Practice launched in November 2010 to address web accessibility. The standard was designed to introduce non-technical professionals to improved accessibility, usability and user experience for disabled and older people. It gives guidance on process, rather than on technical and design issues. BS 8878 is consistent with the UK Equality Act 2010.
The process of displaying text on a television, film, computer screen or other visual display to provide a text transcript of the audio portion of multimedia products. Sometimes includes non-speech elements such as “sigh” or "door creaks". Captioning is synchronized with the visual events taking place on screen. Captioning is increasingly common, especially in the UK and the US, as a result of regulations that stipulate that virtually all TV eventually must be accessible for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Other than the United States and Canada, most of the world does not distinguish captions from subtitles.
Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)
A separate file linked to a web page that contains the rules for how the page should look in terms of colours, font styles and size and layout.
Cinema Audio Description
Many cinemas are equipped with a system that delivers audio description through a headset, which can be requested when a customer collects their ticket at the box office. The audio description runs each time the film is shown and is undetectable to anyone not wearing a headset. This means users can attend any screening of films with audio description and sit anywhere in the auditorium. Contrast with Captioning
A widely used text to speech software product from Claro Software Ltd. See Text-To-Speech Software
The term 'closed' in closed captioning indicates that not all viewers see the captions - only those who choose to decode or activate them.
Closed Captioning Decoder
Device which provides access to television programming by translating the auditory information into print that scrolls across the bottom of the screen.
Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
See Video Magnifier
Small keyboards can be more easily positioned and are often suited to single handed users. They can fit between the arms of a standard wheelchair. The actual key sizes are fairly similar to a standard keyboard; space is generally saved by removing the (right-hand) block of numeric keys and reducing the gaps around the editing and function keys. If the numeric pad is essential, then it is possible to buy them separately and position them to the left or right as needed. See Keyboards
Computer Display Options
Many people with impaired vision can see some colour combinations better than others. Colour options are available in practically all modern programs, or can be achieved by more basic approaches. Most computer operating systems accessibility options offer a wide range of pre-defined colour schemes to choose from.
A cursor is an indicator used to show the position where text will be placed when entered. In many applications the cursor is a thin vertical line, which may be flashing or steady. Many people find it difficult to locate the cursor, and some visual impairments are aggravated by the blinking. The width of the cursor and the blink-rate can be adjusted via the operating system accessibility options.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995
UK legislation that covered the rights of disabled people – the section of the act on the provision of goods and services included the requirement that websites should be made accessible. This was superseded by the Equality Act in 2010.
Display Screen Equipment (DSE)
Any work equipment having a screen that displays information. Typical examples are computer screens, which are often called monitors or VDUs. Surveys have found that high proportions of DSE workers would benefit from adjusting their computer or environment in some way. See also DSE Risk Assessment
A widely used speech recognition software product from Nuance Communications, Inc. See Speech Recognition Software
DSE Risk Assessment
UK legislation (Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 implemented an EC Directive) which require employers to:
- Undertake an analysis of the workstation to assess and reduce risks
- Ensure workstations meet minimum requirements
- Plan work so there are breaks or changes of activity
- On request arrange eye tests, and provide spectacles if special ones are needed
- Provide health and safety training and information
A learning disability that impairs a person's ability to read. It is believed that dyslexia can affect between 5 to 10 percent of a given population.
Equality Act 2010
UK legislation introduced in 2010 which consolidated the numerous Acts and Regulations (including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995), which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in the UK.
Keyboards that are aimed at those wanting to touch type using both hands. Generally they incorporate a split between the keys operated by each hand with the aim of reducing strain in the wrists and arms. A number of variations on this design are available. See Keyboards
An option within the Microsoft Windows operating system. Some keyboard users find they have held a key down too long and get a string of unwanted characters. Others accidentally press keys on the way to the desired key. This is because the standard keyboard, in its normal setup, is very sensitive. This can be remedied using FilterKeys.
Multimedia technology created by Adobe used for web animation and often used to build websites with rich dynamic content. Historically it has not been very accessible to screen reader software but the accessibility features have improved with newer versions.
See Radio Microphone Systems or Assistive Listening Device
Some people, whether reading on paper or on screen, find that some fonts or typefaces are easier to read than others. It is generally accepted that sans-serif fonts like 'Arial', ‘Comic Sans’, ‘Verdana’, ‘Helvetica’ or ‘Tahoma’ are easier to read than a serif font like 'Times New Roman'.
A feature of HTML that allows a page to be divided into two or more separate fixed sized blocks or windows. If the frame does not have a <title> element, or the <title> element is not meaningful this can cause accessibility issues.
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
UK legislation to protect the health of people who work with DSE. The Regulations were introduced because DSE has become one of the most common forms of work equipment, so there is potential to make work more comfortable and productive for very large numbers of people by taking a few simple precautions.
An electro-acoustic device which typically fits in or behind the wearer's ear, and is designed to amplify sound for the wearer. Most hearing aids have a ‘T’ (telecoil) setting which allows use of an Assistive Listening Device such as induction loop or a hearing aid compatible telephone.
See Induction Loop or Assistive Listening Device
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
The predominant language used to create web pages.
IBM Software Accessibility Checklist
The IBM guidelines were the first comprehensive set of published software accessibility standards. They are not as widely used as the USA Section 508 standards on software accessibility which are mandated for use by United States federal agencies.
Coloured transparencies which can be placed over printed text to change its background colour. Many people with reading and writing difficulties find that light and colour can make a big difference in their ability to read. Changing colours on a computer screen can also be achieved through changes to the display settings. See Computer Display Options
An assistive listening device where a microphone or PA system is attached to a loop which generates a magnetic field that is picked up when hearing aid users switch to the 'T' (telecoil) setting. Loop listening receivers can be used by people who have a marginal hearing loss, and do not wear a hearing aid, and by those whose hearing aid does not have a telecoil. Induction loops can be permanently installed at public counters or in rooms, but portable loop systems are available. These may also be referred to as an audio induction loop, AFILS (Audio Frequency Induction Loop System) or a hearing loop.
Infrared Audio System
An assistive listening device where sound input from a microphone or PA system is transmitted as invisible infrared light. Infrared receivers are needed - generally a neck loop for hearing aid users who switch to the ‘T’ (telecoil) setting, or headphones for people who have a marginal hearing loss and do not wear a hearing aid, and by those whose hearing aid does not have a telecoil.
See Sign Language Interpreter
Typewriter-style keyboard, which uses an arrangement of buttons or keys used for direct (human) input into computers, the default being QWERTY layout, although alternative layouts do exist. See Compact Keyboards, Ergonomic Keyboards, Large Keyboards, Keyguards, Keyboard Shortcuts, Large Character Keytops, Onscreen Keyboard, Keyboard Filters
Computer software typing aids such as word prediction utilities and add-on spelling checkers that reduce the required number of keystrokes. Keyboard filters enable users to quickly access the letters they need and to avoid inadvertently selecting keys they don't want.
A keyboard shortcut (or hotkey) is a key (or combination of keys) that performs a function within a software program. Usually this same function can be performed using the mouse but the advantage is that keyboard shortcuts provide a much faster way around the computer when using standard applications. Examples of keyboard shortcut include F1 to access Help or Ctrl + P to print. Users who remember and use keyboard shortcuts increase their productivity.
These are rigid plates with holes designed to work with specific keyboards. The holes are positioned over each key and make it impossible to press two keys at once. As a further benefit it is possible to rest hands and arms on the guard without pressing keys. Keyguards can be removed and fitted for use only when required. It can often be easier to purchase a keyboard and guard together rather than get one to fit a specific keyboard.
Large Character Keytops
Many users find the letters on a computer keyboard are small and difficult to see. Large print keytop stickers in several colour combinations are available. Acquiring reasonable touch-typing skills is highly desirable in all cases of visual impairment save those where a physical impairment prevents this.
Expanded keyboards can help in situations where it is difficult to accurately locate a normal sized keytop. The larger size gives more area to 'aim at'. Many expanded keyboards have a "built-in" guard as the letters are slightly sunk beneath the surface of the keyboard.
Larger-than-normal computer screens produce a larger-than-normal image. All standard computers are able to work with larger monitors, which can be up to 30" diagonal (compared to a typical 15"-19" monitor). By using these monitors some users get the image size they need without the need to use any additional assistive technology.
Books or text with words printed in a larger font or type size. The larger print size is helpful for people who have trouble reading smaller print, such as those with impaired vision.
See Assistive Listening Device
Loop Listening Aids
See Induction Loop
Standard computer programs such as word processors allow the user to increase the size of the text quite considerably in the window where the document appears. This does not affect the size in which the text is printed out. Most buttons on the toolbar can be enlarged also by choosing the right option within the program. Specialist products such as ZoomText, SuperNova Magnifier can produce a much larger image on the computer screen, although enlarging characters in this way always means that only a portion of the whole screen is visible at any time.
Mandate 376 (M376)
European Commission project aimed at harmonising the accessibility requirements used in public sector procurement of ICT goods and services across Europe. Phase 1 reported in 2008, setting out the applicable international standards, and the requirements applied in each Member State. Phase 2 started in March 2011 with two workstreams. The first will produce a harmonised European standard on public procurement of accessible ICT, and seeks to ensure that this is aligned with the Section 508 provisions applicable in the USA (these are simultaneously being revised). The second workstream will produce an online procurement toolkit for use in public procurements.
A range of ergonomic mice can be used to help gain better control of the device (right and left handed), or help alleviate the symptoms of certain upper limb disorders. Mice are often available in different sizes for both the left and right hand. It can be helpful to try a few different mice as different sizes and shapes are available and require varying amounts of pressure on buttons. See also Textphone
A widely used text-to-speech software product from NaturalSoft Limited. See Text-To-Speech Software
A professional person who takes notes, whether manual or electronic, for a disabled person who cannot take their own notes. Manual notetakers produce a written summary record of what is spoken, using paper and pen. The manual notetaker will highlight important points of the text, link the text with any handouts or tasks needed by the client and ensure the client is aware of any issues arising in the meeting or lecture. Electronic notetakers produce a typed summary record of what is spoken using a laptop computer. The advantage of an electronic notetaker is that they can usually get more information down as typing is much faster than writing. Electronic notetakers should not be confused with verbatim speech-to-text reporters (STTRs) who use a phonetic keyboard which provides a verbatim service.
NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access)
A widely used Screen Reader software product from NV Access. See Screen Reader Software
Software-generated images of a standard or modified keyboard placed on the computer screen. The keys are selected by a mouse, touch screen, trackball, joystick, switch or electronic pointing device. On-screen keyboards often have a option that highlights individual keys as selected by the user. On-screen keyboards are helpful for individuals who are not able to use a standard keyboard due to dexterity or mobility difficulties.
Optical Character Recognition and Scanners
Optical character recognition (OCR) software works with a scanner to convert images from a printed page into a standard computer file. With OCR software, the resulting computer file can be edited. Pictures and photographs do not require OCR software to be manipulated.
See Speech-To-Text Reporter
PAS 78: A guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites
UK guidance that was superceded in December 2010 by BS 8878, PAS 78 provided assistance to organisations on how to go about commissioning an accessible website from design agencies. It described what was expected from websites to comply with the UK Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (superseded by the Equality Act), making websites accessible to and usable by disabled people.
Refers to anyone who has a problem accessing standard text, printed on paper. This includes people who are blind, partially sighted or have cognitive impairments such as dyslexia. It is these readers who benefit from the use of an alternative format.
Reading and Writing Software
Computer software which provides an aid to reading, using combined voice and text output; spelling is assisted with spelling and homophone checkers (to distinguish between similarly pronounced words).
A widely used text-to-speech software product from TextHelp Systems Ltd. See Text-To-Speech Software
Read Out Loud
A widely used text-to-speech software product from Adobe Systems Inc. See Text-To-Speech Software
A widely used text-to-speech software product from ReadPlease Corp. See Text-To-Speech Software
Real Time Transcription
General term for transcription reported using technology to deliver text within a few seconds of the words being spoken. Typically, real time reporters can produce text using a phonetic keyboard machines at the rate 200-300 words per minute. Real time transcription is also used in the broadcasting environment where it is more commonly termed 'captioning'.
Device using optical character recognition (OCR) software by which hand written or printed text on a page is converted into a standard computer text file which can then be viewed on screen, magnified, edited, spoken back or output to a Braille display or Braille embosser.
Screen Reader Software
Software that uses a synthetic voice to 'speak' aloud everything on the screen including text, graphics, control buttons, and menus. Products are used by people with limited vision or blindness or with a print disability, such as dyslexia. Screen reader software also makes navigation on the internet easier for the visually impaired user, providing that the websites being viewed are accessible. Widely used products include Jaws, SuperNova Screen Reader and NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access).
The common name for Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act. This law requires that all Electronic and Information Technology purchased or developed by the US Government must be accessible to people with disabilities. The law directed the U.S. Access Board to develop a standard for accessibility of electronic and information technology. That standard is the only standard in the US that federal agencies must follow when they develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology.
A language used by people who are deaf which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning - simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express a speaker's thoughts. Hundreds of different sign languages are in use around the world; for example, British Sign Language and American Sign Language are quite different and mutually unintelligible, even though the hearing people of Britain and America share the same oral language. Sign language complex grammars are markedly different from the grammars of spoken languages.
Sign Language Interpreter
A professional person who facilitates communication between sign language users and users of the spoken word. Interpreters use their skill and knowledge of the 2 languages, and their understanding of any cultural differences that might exist between those for whom they are interpreting, to receive a message given in one language and pass it on in the other language. Note that British Sign Language and American Sign Language are quite different and mutually unintelligible.
Speech Recognition Software
Allows the user to enter data using their voice rather than a mouse or keyboard, and can be used to create text documents such as letters or e-mail messages, or browse the Internet, and navigate among applications and menus by voice. Speech recognition systems use a microphone attached to the computer; they are designed to respond to a wide range of voices, and are suitable for most people who do not have an impaired speaking voice. With experience, users can achieve high rates of accuracy at the speed of a good typist. The most widely-used text to speech software is Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Speech-To-Text Reporter (STTR)
A professional person who uses a phonetic keyboard to produce a verbatim record of what is said which is shown instantly on a monitor or screen. The STTR provides a complete transcription of the spoken words and environmental sounds, such as laughter and applause. May also be referred to as a Palantypist or Stenographer
See Speech-To-Text Reporter
A feature within the Microsoft Windows operating system. Many software programs require the user to press two or three keys simultaneously (e.g. Ctrl + S to save your document). For people who type using a mouth stick this is impossible, and for those using one hand such combinations may be difficult or uncomfortable. StickyKeys makes the modifier keys (i.e. Ctrl, Alt and Shift) “sticky” in that it allows the user to press one key at a time and instructs Windows to respond as if the keys had been pressed simultaneously.
Documents and other text such as web pages that are ‘structured’ using headings and list bullets so that users can navigate through the document. Structured text helps screen reader software and accessible technologies identify headings and bullet points.
Widely used Screen Magnification software product from Dolphin Computer Access Ltd. See Magnification Software
SuperNova Screen Reader
A widely used Screen Reader software product from Dolphin Computer Access Ltd. See Screen Reader Software
Telephone Relay Service Universal design
A telephone relay service for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Customers use a textphone to access any services that are available on standard telephone systems. Also provides real-time, character-by-character text. In the UK this service is known as Text Relay Service.
Text-To-Speech (TTS) Software
Converts text on a computer into a synthetic speech output. Differs from screen reader software, which not only reads text within a document but also lets visually impaired users navigate their computer and access menu items, dialog boxes, or message boxes. Some Text to Speech software allows the output to be saved as an MP3 audio file. Both Text to Speech and Screen Reader software are used by blind users and are useful to users with learning disabilities. Widely-used Text to Speech software includes Read&Write and ClaroRead and cost-free options, such as NaturalReader ReadPlease 2003 or Read Out Loud for PDF documents
A type of telephone for people who are deaf or hard of hearing which is attached to a keyboard and a screen on which the messages sent and received are displayed as real-time, character-by-character text. May also be referred to as a teletypewriter (TTY) or Minicom.
Text Relay Service
See Telephone Relay Service
An approach, concept or philosophy for designing and delivering products and services which are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which include products and services that are directly accessible (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies. Examples of universally designed environments include buildings with ramps, curb cuts, automatic doors, widened doorways, and door handles (rather than knobs).
Determines how easy a product is to use. Alternatively, the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which a specified set of users can achieve specified goals in particular environments.
See Display Screen Equipment
A device that enlarges pictures, print or hand-written text as required by a user with low vision. Systems generally comprise a moveable table on which the item to be read is placed, and use a stand-mounted video camera which projects the image magnified (from 2x to 50x) onto a video monitor, a television (TV) screen, or a computer monitor. Battery powered handheld models with magnification of 3x to 11x are also available for people on the move. Video magnifiers are sometimes referred to as closed-circuit television (CCTV).
A phone with a screen that permits users to conduct real-time audio and visual conversations. It is useful for those who use sign language to communicate.
Universal accessibility to the World Wide Web means that all people, regardless of their physical or developmental abilities, have access to web-based information and services. Making web pages accessible is accomplished by designing them to work with adaptive technologies, such as screen reader software. It also means making colour, font size, and page design decisions that make it possible for the widest range of individuals to access the information.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
Started by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and its members, it addresses web accessibility issues.
Web Browser Settings
Many websites are visually complex and combine multiple columns and text in unique combinations of colours. Most browsers can force the size and colour of the text, and the background and foreground colours of the page to whatever combination the user prefers.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
These are the guidelines set by the W3C/WAI to address issues in building accessible web pages.
Word Prediction Software
A computer program which, after typing the first few letters of a word, allows the user to select a desired word from an on-screen list located in a prediction window. For longer words this can offer speed improvements. Word prediction vocabulary can be personalised and some word prediction packages offer phonetic spelling support.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
An international consortium of companies and organisations involved with the Internet and the World Wide Web, responsible for maintaining web technology standards, such as HTML and CSS.
XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language)
An updated version of HTML, which uses more rigorous standards and rules to make better structured and accessible web pages.