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A non-exhaustive list of important words, phrases, and terminology related to disability and digital accessibility.

ASCII Art: form of digital design that uses numbers, letters, punctuation marks, and other characters to create illustrative memes. Pronounced ass-kee.

Abbreviation: a shortened form of a word or phrase. Acronyms and initialisms are both types of abbreviations. Examples: FBI, YOLO, BOGO, Approx., Tbsp., ROI

Ableism: discrimination or social prejudice against disabled people in favor of able-bodied people.

Accessibility: the practice of creating products, spaces, and/or content that is usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations. Accessibility focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities or enabling access through the use of assistive technology. Accessibility is sometimes stylized as the number-based word a11y.

Acronym: an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. Examples: ASCII, NASA, FOMO, NATO, SCUBA

Alternative Characters: Unicode characters copied from external websites that are different from a platform’s default font and formatting options.

Alternative Text: concise textual information used to accurately describe the visual details of an image. It’s added to an image tag in the HTML code of a webpage or through a platform’s designated alt text field. Also commonly referred to as an “alt tag” or “alt attribute” when used in relation to web development.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): a civil rights law in the United States that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.

Audio Description: form of narration used to provide information surrounding key visual elements in media such as a film, television show, or theatrical performance to make the content accessible for blind and low-vision consumers.

Camel Case: practice of capitalizing the first letter of each word after the first word in multi-word hashtags so that assistive technology says the hashtag correctly and not as one amalgamated word. A hashtag in Camel Case #looksLikeThis.

Charity Model: model of disability that depicts people with disabilities as tragic stories or victims of circumstance who deserve pity. This is very common in modern media where a disabled person is seen as a source of inspiration for “overcoming” their disability or succeeding despite their disability.

Clean Verbatim: type of transcript that has removed the verbal tics and false starts heard on an audio or video recording. It does not alter the order of statements or paraphrase them. Also known as intelligent verbatim or word for word.

Closed Captioning: process of displaying text on a video to provide interpretive information about the dialogue or other audio heard in the video. Closed captions can be toggled on and off based on the preferences of the viewer. They are commonly seen on media sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo as well as video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.

Color Contrast: the perceived difference between two or more adjacent colors. Two colors from different segments of the color wheel are contrasting colors.

Cultural Model: model of disability that centers the experience of people with disabilities and the history and culture of the disabled community.

Detailed Notes: type of transcript that distills an audio or video recording down to its essence without forcing the reader to digest large chunks of text.

Dynamic Disabilities: disabilities similar to episodic disabilities in that they usually have no discernible pattern. They swing in severity, where all or one of the symptoms of a chronic illness are more active or worsen for a period of time. Disabilities associated with chronic pain can often be dynamic with the severity of pain fluctuating over time.

Economic Model: model of disability that defines disability by a person’s inability to participate in work and assesses the degree to which a disability affects an individual’s productivity and the economic consequences for the individual, employer, and the economy as a whole.

Emoji: pictograms, logograms, ideograms, and smiley faces used in electronic messages and web pages. An emoji’s primary function is to fill in emotional cues otherwise missing from typed conversation.

Episodic Disabilities: disabilities that have no discernible pattern. They can affect a person at any given time and change how they interact with the world. Examples would be migraines, vertigo, chronic pain, asthma, and some forms of mental illness like PTSD and bipolar disorder.

Flattened Copy: text on digital assets like JPEG, PNG, GIF, and occasionally PDF files that has been turned into an object upon the file being exported from its program of creation. It is no longer recognizable as readable text by an assistive device or program. Flattened copy cannot be selected by a cursor.

Full Verbatim: type of transcript that includes everything that is said in an audio or video recording, exactly how the speakers say it. This means verbal tics, grammatical and vocabulary mistakes, false starts, and repetitions are included.

Hidden Disabilities: disabilities that are not immediately apparent upon looking at someone. These could be anything from hearing loss or chronic pain to neurological disorders or mental illness. See also Invisible Disabilities.

Human Rights Model: model of disability that sees disability as a human rights issue and seeks to address the issues of social justice and discrimination that people with disabilities face through inclusive legislature.

Image Description: detailed description of an image’s visual details. It’s provided in the content of the webpage, typically near the image or as a visible caption. On a social media platform, it would be in the body of a post. Image descriptions provide additional context and information about a visual, beyond what can be conveyed in short alt text. Image descriptions may include details such as the colors, shapes, sizes, textures, and other elements in an image, as well as its context and meaning.

Initialism: an abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced separately. Examples: K.P.I., M.L.M., N.Y.C., U.S.A., F.B.I.

Inspiration Porn: the portrayal of people with disabilities as being inspirational to abled people on the basis of their life circumstances. The term was coined in 2012 by disability rights activist Stella Young.

Invisible Disabilities: disabilities that are not immediately apparent upon looking at someone. These could be anything from hearing loss or chronic pain to neurological disorders or mental illness. See also Hidden Disabilities.

Medical Model: model of disability that perceives disability as an impairment in a body system or function that is inherently pathological. Through this lens, the goal is to return the system or function to as close to “normal” as possible.

Moral Model: model of disability that sees disability as the result of one’s character, deeds, thoughts, or karma and carries a negative stigma as if disability is a curse or a punishment. Alternatively, disability can also be seen as a sign of honor, faith, or strength through this model.

Open Captions: captions that have been embedded into a video during post-production and are always visible. They cannot be turned off, moved, or resized. Open captions are typically used when closed captioning is not an option or if the producer wants more creative control over the look and feel of the captions.

Pascal Case: practice of capitalizing the first letter of each word in multi-word hashtags so that assistive technology says the hashtag correctly and not as one amalgamated word. A hashtag in Pascal Case #LooksLikeThis. See also Title Case.

Refreshable Braille Display: technology that provides access to information on a computer screen by electronically raising and lowering different combinations of pins in Braille cells.

Screen Reader: software programs that allow blind and low vision users to access the text that is displayed on a screen with a speech synthesizer or Braille display.

Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.): the process of making sure a website appears as high as possible in the results returned by a search engine, in order to maximize the volume and quality of website traffic.

Section 508: amendment to the U.S. Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d) requiring information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities if developed or purchased by federal agencies in the United States.

Situational Disabilities: disabilities affected by a person’s environment or circumstances like having trouble seeing a screen in different levels of lighting or difficulty hearing audio in loud, crowded spaces.

Social Model: model of disability that sees disability as one aspect of a person’s identity, much like race, gender, sexuality, et cetera. From this perspective, disability is believed to result from a mismatch between the disabled person and the environment. Therefore, it is this environment or society that creates the inaccessibility, not the disability.

Speech Synthesizer: text-to-speech systems used with computers that are programmed to include all the phonemes and grammatical rules of a language, allowing words to be pronounced correctly.

Studly Case: mixed case with no semantic or syntactic significance to the use of the capitals. Sometimes only vowels are upper case, at other times upper and lower case are alternated, but often it is simply random. Often used by internet users to convey mocking sarcasm. Also known as "varied case" or "SpongeBob case" after the popular Mocking SpongeBob meme.

Subtitles: language-specific captions intended for viewers who do not understand and/or speak the language being spoken in the media. Subtitles can be closed or open depending on the production of the video. “Subtitles” is sometimes used interchangeably with “captions.”

Temporary Disabilities: disabilities resulting from an injury like a broken leg or illness such as experiencing temporary hearing loss due to a sinus infection.

Text-to-Speech Programs: technology that is used to change data into spoken words. Most Smartphones have text-to-speech programs built into them. Android devices have TalkBack. iOS devices have VoiceOver.

Title Case: practice of capitalizing the first letter of each word in multi-word hashtags so that assistive technology says the hashtag correctly and not as one amalgamated word. A hashtag in Title Case #LooksLikeThis. See also Pascal Case.

Transcript: text version of the speech and/or non-spoken audio information. Descriptive transcripts also include text description of the visual information needed to understand the content.

Unicode: information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most writing systems. The standard, which is maintained by the Unicode Consortium, defines 143,859 characters covering 154 modern and historic scripts, as well as symbols, emoji, and non-visual control and formatting codes.

Video Description: text or audio that provides information about the key visual elements of video or similar media.

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): develops standards and support materials to help web content authors and developers understand and implement accessibility.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): set of guidelines intended to help web content authors and developers prepare their content for use by people with disabilities and ensure equal access to websites. The goal of WCAG is to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

Web Overlay: broad term for technologies that aim to improve the accessibility of a website. They apply third-party source code (typically JavaScript) to make improvements to the front-end code of the website. They are not recommended by most web accessibility professionals or the disabled community.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Covers a wide range of topics in addition to accessibility, including internationalization, web security, and privacy.

Written Description: text that provides info surrounding key visual elements in media—such as a film, television show, or theatrical performance—to make the content accessible for blind and low vision consumers. Similar to an audio description, but in written form.