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AT in the School

A Dictionary of Common Acronyms and Terms

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]



letter A
AAC
This acronym stands for "alternative augmentative communication" or "alternative and augmentative communication." The terms describe both a method of communicating which does not depend on human speech and the communication devices used by people who have speech impairments to generate synthetic speech and/or visual displays. AAC devices may be non-electronic or electronic.

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ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (PL 101-336), which prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities and makes such discrimination a civil rights violation. One feature of the ADA is that it requires an employer to make "reasonable accommodations" if these are needed to enable a person with a disability to do a job for which he or she is qualified. In some cases, assistive technology may fall under the heading of "reasonable accommodation." Providers of public services, schools, public buildings, and public transportation systems also may not discriminate; their facilities and services must be accessible to people with disabilities.

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Adapted / Adaptation
An adaptation is a modification made to a device or to a service or program which renders it usable by or appropriate for a person with a disability. At school, a standard curriculum or lesson may be adapted, for example, to better meet the needs of a special education student. A car may be adapted with hand controls, so a person whose legs are impaired may drive. A computer may be adapted, so a person who has no fine motor control can use the machine. A toy may be adapted so a child with a disability can enjoy and learn from its use. A device, program or service which has been modified is referred to as "adapted." Thus, we have adapted computers, adapted cars, adapted kitchens, adapted toys and games, etc.

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Alternative Communication
See AAC

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Americans with Disabilities Act
See ADA

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Assistive Technology Device
In the U.S. Tech Act, an assistive technology device is defined as 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 of individuals with disabilities. Such a device can be as simple as a modified drawer pull or as complex as a programmable speech synthesizer. Wheelchairs, grab bars, crutches, adapted drinking cups, and adapted computers all are assistive technology devices.

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Assistive Technology Service
According to IDEA an assistive technology service is one which directly assists and individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device. Such services include evaluation of individual technology needs; purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring a device; selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or replacing a device; and coordinating and using other therapies, interventions or services with assistive technology devices training and technical assistance for the persona with a disability and his/her family; and training or technical assistance for professionals, employers and others who serve or employ or are substantially involved with a person with a disability.

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Augmentative Communication
See AAC

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letter B
Bit / Byte
Units of electronic data. One bit is roughly equal to one character of text. There are eight bits in a byte. Computer files and computer capacity have become so large that users have moved rapidly from talking about "bytes" of data, to "kilobytes" (1,024 bytes), "megabytes" (1,024 kilobytes), and "gigabytes" (1,024 megabytes, a very large number). Both a computer's random access memory (RAM) size or capacity and its hard drive's (or other storage device) data storage capacity are described in megabytes or gigabytes. Bits and bytes also are used to describe the transmission rate of data over phone lines and cables. For example, a modem may be said to transmit at 28.8 bps (bits per second), or roughly 28.8 characters per second. This is equivalent to typing about 345 words per minute.

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Bitmap
A way of displaying text and graphics on a screen, especially a computer monitor or other computer-driven display device. The data's structure corresponds, bit-for-bit, with the image on the screen. That is, each screen pixel will display from one to eight bits of data. A bitmap image is described by its width and height in screen pixels and by the number of bits per pixel.

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Braille
A tactile code developed by Louis Braille to represent letters of the alphabet. Each Braille cell contains six to eight raised dots, depending on the style of writing used. Characters are formed by one or more dots. People with visual disabilities often learn to read Braille and also use Braille writers, machines which generate text in Braille. Many common machines and devices (elevator buttons, ATM buttons) now carry Braille codes.

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Browser
A computer program which enables the computer user to access the World Wide Web. There are many browsers, the most popular being Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer. Browsers generally interpret both text and graphics found on the Web, and display them to the user. However, text-only browsers, such as Lynx, still are in use. Browsers can be adapted with add-on software that "reads" a Web site aloud to accommodate people with visual disabilities. Wandering around the Web, from site to site, is called "browsing."

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letter C
Captions / Closed, Open Captioning
Subtitles to a videotape or film, or to a television show, which convey dialogue and sounds in writing. Captioning gives people with hearing impairments access to information and entertainment. "Closed captioning" is captioning that can not be seen unless a video monitor or TV is hooked up to a device which "translates" the captions; the captions are thus invisible to viewers without the closed caption box. In "open captioning" all viewers see the captions.

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Chubon
A keyboard layout helpful to people who type with one finger, a headwand or a mouthstick. A computer adaptation for people with disabilities.

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Curb Cuts
An example of a simple design modification which is becoming universal and beneficial to all users, not just people with disabilities. Curb cuts are slightly ramped cuts into curbs that enable wheelchair users and others with mobility limitations to move smoothly from sidewalk to street and back to the sidewalk. As we've learned, curb cuts also benefit bicyclists, roller-skaters, people pushing strollers, people using luggage and grocery carts, and many others. The term "curb cuts" now often is used to describe an assistive device or design which benefits many users, not only people with disabilities.

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letter D
Descriptive video
The Descriptive Video Service (DVS) provides narrated descriptions of key items in a video without interfering with the dialogue and other audio in a program or movie. The narration describes actions, settings, body language and graphics. Descriptive video enables people with visual impairments to enjoy videotaped programs and movies.

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letter E
E-mail
Electronic mail, which are messages sent from one computer to another, generally over phone lines. E-mail is used for one-on-one communication between computer users, and by newsgroups (online discussion groups) and online mailing lists. Most Web browsers include an e-mail function which is used for sending e-mail over the Internet; stand-alone e-mail software also is available.

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Environmental control
An area in which assistive technology is used to enable a person with a disability to control his/her environment. Devices such as adapted thermostats, adapted light and appliance switches, switches to control the movement of drapes and blinds, adapted door intercoms, adapted keys and locks, and so on, all fall under this heading. Environmental control assistive technology is a key to independent living.

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Emoticon
Punctuation used to indicate emotion in e-mail. Although originally intended as joking, emoticons truly are helpful in high-volume, text-only communication, such as newsgroups. Since the receiver of e-mail can not see the sender's face or body language and can not hear the sender's tone of voice, emoticons help prevent misinterpretation of remarks intended to be humorous, sarcastic, ironic, etc. The most common emoticon is : ), a colon and parenthesis intended to represent a smiling face. Emoticons obviously can be helpful communication aids to people who communicate primarily by typing text.

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letter F
Format (data)
Different methods of arranging and storing data (text or graphics) in a computer file. These include TIFF, PICT, JPEG, PDF, GIF, RTF, etc. When transmitting files from one computer to another, it often is important to know in which the format the file has been created and/or saved.

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letter  G

letter H
Host
A computer on which documents which are accessed by other computers are stored. A host is also called a server.

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HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
The computer language or code used to create hypertext documents. Documents on the World Wide Web are written in HTML. Web browsers are computer programs which interpret HTML for display on a computer monitor. The unique feature of hypertext documents is the "links" embedded in them, which enable a Web user to "jump" from one site on the Web to another.

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Hypertext
The format of computer documents written in HTML. This is the format used to create documents for the World Wide Web. Hypertext includes embedded links, which enable the user to jump from one link to another, at another location on the Web.

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letter I
Icon
In an assistive technology context, pictures used to represent a concept. Icons often are used on the keyboards of AACs and in computer graphical user interfaces (GUIs), as in the familiar Windows and Macintosh interfaces. Because of their application, icons usually are small and simple.

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IDEA
The U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (PL 101-476), first passed in 1975, most recently re-authorized and amended in June 1997. This landmark legislation authorizes special education programs and services to students in the U.S. In 1990, IDEA was amended to include language relating to the provision of assistive technology devices and services to students with disabilities. (For more on IDEA go to www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/IDEA on the Web.)

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IEP
Individualized Education Plan: a legal document which sets goals and objectives for students with disabilities and describes the programs and services which will be offered to help the student reach those goals. If a goal and/or objective in an IEP requires the student to use an assistive technology device and service, the school district must supply them. The need and responsibility for assistive technology devices and services should be specifically written into an IEP. The IEP is formulated by a team of professionals employed by the school district and the parents or guardians of the students. Parents must consent to an IEP and may appeal an IEP if they find it unacceptable.

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IFSP
Individualized Family Service Plan: a legal document, much like an IEP, which guides the programs and services provided to children and their families in an early intervention program. The need and responsibility for assistive technology should be specifically written into the IFSP.

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Internet
The Internet, or 'Net, is a worldwide network of computer networks linked together by phone lines, cables, satellites and other methods. The Internet links millions of computer users with each other for the purposes of communication and information-sharing. Originally created by the U.S. Dept. of Defense to link government agencies and research sites, the Internet has grown far beyond its original purpose. It is now a multifaceted network, accessible by any computer user equipped with the necessary hardware, software, transmission lines and skills.

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letter J letter K letter L

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letter M
Modem
A device which translate outgoing computer data into a form suitable for transmission over a phone line and translates incoming phone signals into a form readable by a computer. Modems are rated by speed; currently, the speed of a modem is expressed in "bps," or bits per second. The higher the bps rating, the faster the modem transmits data.

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letter N letter O

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letter P
Positioning
An area in which assistive devices are used to properly position a person with a disability in a wheelchair, automobile, office chair, etc. Correct positioning is important to health, safety, comfort and task performance.

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letter Q

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letter R
Rehabilitation Act
The U.S. Vocational Rehabilitation and Other Rehabilitation Act of 1973, amended 1992. Among other things, this law established the National Council on Disability and the National Council on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The law has an impact on assistive technology. For example, Section 794d says that people with disabilities who participate in federally-funded programs or jobs must have equal access to and an equal chance to produce information and data through electronic and information technology.

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letter S
Screen Reader
Computer software that translates a graphical interface (information is displayed as icons or small pictures as in the Windows or Mac operating system) into text forms which can be read aloud to the user via synthesized speech or read with Braille displays.

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Server
A computer equipped with the software it needs to make it responsive to requests from other computers (clients). The Internet is an enormous client-server network, in which clients access data on servers which, in turn "serve up" the requested data to clients.

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letter T
Tech Act
The U.S. Technology-Related Assistance Act (PL-100-407), originally passed in 1988, which, among other things, authorizes grants to states for the purpose of creating assistive technology assistance centers to serve people with disabilities and their families all around the U.S. and its territories and possessions. Tech Act programs have sprung up in almost every state and territory. This law also created the legal definition of assistive technology devices and services, which was added to IDEA in 1990. For more information about this law, go to on the Web.

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letter U letter V

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letter W
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web -- Web for short -- is the most popular, fastest-growing part of the Internet, because, thanks to hypertext, it is very "browsable" and easy to use, and because the Web can easily accommodate graphics of all types, and sound and video files as well as text, making the Web a multimedia experience for users with adequate computer equipment. The Web has become an information, communication, commercial and entertainment medium of genuine significance.

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letter X letter Y letter Z

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