Diversity & Inclusion
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Here are 23 terms you should know to better understand accessibility

Audism, multi-modality and Section 508: We built a glossary based on local experts' suggestions of the terms they think everyone should learn.

West Philadelphia resident Yvonne Hughes uses a portable CCTV, a magnifier for people who are visually impaired. (Photo by Grace Shallow)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Accessibility month of our editorial calendar.

The internet should be inclusive of all who want to use it. But that’s not possible if technologists building it aren’t familiar with accessibility best practices — or even the correct terms to use when describing them.

Over the course of our Technical.ly-wide reporting on accessibility this past month — think software standards, physical space design, tech training for seniors — we’ve found this field uses some specific language that might not be familiar to those not working in it.

(Here’s a reminder of how we’re defining the term: Accessibility is the design of technology — products, devices, services, environments — that is inclusive of as many groups of people as possible.)

So, as we did last month with cybersecurity, we asked experts in the field about some of the terms they think everyone should know. The following is a look at our first compilation of accessibility terms. It’s by no means a complete glossary (yet!), but consider it a snapshot of some of the key terms that often come up in conversation. Here’s a look:

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

  • The landmark civil rights law requiring equal rights and access for people with disabilities
  • Term suggested by Mikey Ilagan, product manager at Comcast

Accessible Player Experiences (APX)

  • Design for video games’ user experience that increases their accessibility
  • Term suggested by computer programmer and technology accessibility consultant Austin Seraphin

Adaptive fittings

Assistive technology

  • Technology that increases the usability of existing computer-based systems for people with disabilities, such as screen readers
  • Term inspired by this April 2018 article published on Generocity

Audio description

  • Audio description — also referred to as a video description, described video or more precisely called a visual description — is an additional narration track intended primarily for blind and visually impaired consumers of visual media (including television and film, dance, opera and visual art)
  • Term suggested and define by Alanna Raffel, occupational therapist at Access Point


  • Discrimination or prejudice toward those who are deaf or hearing impaired
  • Term suggested by Ather Sharif, software engineer at Comcast

Augmentative and alternative communication

  • Tools that strengthen the communication skills of people who cannot speak verbally and/or use communication technology and speech-generation tools
  • Term suggested by Christopher Vito


Curb-cut effect

Enough time

  • “Sounds straightforward, essentially it means provide enough time for someone to interact with something. It is often overlooked!”
  • Term suggested and defined by Luke Pettway, senior software engineer at Think Company


  • Providing multiple modes of information access as possible — visual, auditory, tactile, etc.
  • Term suggested and defined by Luke Pettway

Screen reader

  • An accessibility feature that reads aloud what is written on the screen in a contextual and logical manner so individuals who are blind can access a computer’s operating system/desktop environment. In addition, the screen reader allows the end user to interact with compatible programs on the Windows operating system without the need for a mouse.
  • Term suggested and defined by Andrew Drummond, assistive technology specialist at Maryland Department of Disabilities Technology Assistance Program

Section 508


  • A software or accessibility feature/support that processes human voice into written text, allowing a user to dictate their thoughts using a word processor in conjunction with a speech-to-text feature. This support is ideal for individuals with fine motor challenges restricting their functional use of a keyboard.
  • Term suggested and defined by Andrew Drummond


  • An assistive technology device designed to accommodate individuals with significant fine motor or cognitive challenges by enabling the end user to control a computer without a keyboard or mouse, if used with the appropriate software and peripherals. Switches come in a variety of shapes and size allowing them to be be activated using various various alternative methods such as pinching, pressing and squeezing, to name a few.
  • Term suggested and defined by Andrew Drummond


  • Putting content into the proper container element so that assistive technology can read it
  • Term suggested and defined by Luke Pettway


  • A software or accessibility feature/support that reads text aloud to the end user. This support is ideal for individuals with reading challenges or low vision.
  • Term suggested and defined by Andrew Drummond

Title II of the ADA

Title III of the ADA


  • Discrimination or prejudice toward blind individuals
  • Term suggested by Ather Sharif

Voice control

  • A software, hardware or operating system that can be controlled via your voice, e.g. Amazon’s Echo
  • Term suggested and defined by Andrew Drummond

Web Accessibility Initiative — Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA)

  • World Wide Web Consortium’s technical specification of best practices to increase the accessibility of web pages
  • Term suggested by Austin Seraphin

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

  • A set of suggested standards created by W3 (World Wide Web Consortium) to help guide organizations in developing accessible content. They are currently used to create better sites and applications that are accessible by persons of different abilities and help maintain compliance with laws designed to prevent discrimination.
  • Term suggested and defined by Tara Leavitt, director of marketing at The Yard

Knowledge is power!

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