Glossary of Terms
Glossary of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Terms


  • Abstract Concept

    An idea, thought, or notion that is difficult to describe and understand (e.g., time, temperature, emotions, motive).
  • Access / Accessibility

    Concept promoted by the disability rights movement which has the goal of making all programs, services and opportunities open to people with disabilities; elimination of physical and social barriers.
  • Accommodation

    Any provision or modification which makes a program, job, service, place, etc., open and available to a person with a disability.
  • Active neglect

    a.k.a. willful deprivation (generic definition) - intentional failure to fulfill care giving obligations or the willful denial of medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device or other physical assistance, and thereby exposing the person to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm.
  • Acute mental health treatment

    intensive, short term, mental health treatment to treat severe symptoms of emotional distress or mental illness.
  • ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act (PL 101-336)

    a Federal civil rights law enacted in 1990 to removebarriers that preclude people with disabilities from having the same opportunities as non-disabled individuals. The law guarantees equal opportunity for individuals in State and local government services, public accommodations, employment, transportation, and telecommunications. The ADA prohibits discrimination based upon disability, including the perception of disability
  • Adaptive behavior

    ability to function in nonacademic skill areas such as self-help, social abilities, and mobility; behavior that reflects the extent to which a person meets the standards of independence and social responsibility expected of his or her age and cultural group.
  • ADL - activities of daily living

    self-help activities such as bathing, toileting, eating, cooking, mobility, simple health care procedures, and housekeeping.
  • Adult guardianship

    a legal procedure in which it is determined by a court, following a hearing, that the ability to make decisions of a person over the age of 18 is so seriously impaired, that the person is in need of protection, and that a less restrictive alternative is not available. When a guardian is appointed, the guardian is authorized to make decisions for an individual concerning his or her person, estate, or both.
  • Advocate

    a person who supports and represents the rights and interests of another individual in order to ensure the individual's full legal rights and access to services.
  • ASL - American Sign Language or Ameslan

    a formal method of communication used by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, in which manual sign symbols function as words. Recognized as a language, American Sign Language has its own structure, semantics (the meaning of words), and syntax (grammar).
  • Asperger syndrome

    one of the autistic spectrum disorders; characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest or activities. While similar to autism, a marked difference is that language is not delayed, nor are there delays in cognitive development, self care skills, or adaptive behavior in general, except for social interaction.
  • Assistive technology device

    an item, piece of (re)habilitation equipment, or product system used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities (e.g., wheelchair, hearing aid, prosthesis).
  • Aura

    a visual change or alteration of sensation that may precede a seizure.
  • Autism

    a neurobiological syndrome characterized by significant limitations in language skills, ability to interact socially, capacity to develop interpersonal relationships, and repertoire of behaviors, activities, and interests. Considered to be one of the developmental disabilities and categorized as a pervasive developmental disorder.
  • Auxiliary aids and services

    aids or services to assist an individual to perform work, leisure, and activities of daily living and to participate in programs, services or activities (e.g., computer, wheelchair, qualified interpreters, assistive listening headsets, television captioning and decoders, telecommunication devices for deaf persons, videotext displays, readers, Brailled materials, and large print materials).


  • Behavior management program

    a plan or program that defines the nature and frequency of the behavior and outlines the techniques designed to influence existing behavior in some predetermined manner, replacing maladaptive or problem behaviors with behaviors that are adaptive and appropriate.
  • Bipolar disorder

    formerly referred to as manic depressive disorder - a psychiatric disorder characterized by extremes of happiness and sadness of mood and excessive behaviors that reflect the mood. In the depressive phase the person may reach a complete vegetative depression and see life as a black hole from which there is no escape and no hope. In the manic phase the person may experience unrealistic optimism, energy (talk for hours or days), go on spending sprees and euphoria (elation). The person will stay in a phase for a period of time and then either rapidly or slowly transition to the next phase.
  • Blind

    refers to a severe limitation in visual functioning in which the person is totally without sight or has very limited object perception.
  • Braille

    a written language formed as a series of raised dots on a page read from left to right.


  • Caregiver

    a person who is responsible for the care and welfare of a person with a disability (paid or unpaid) (e.g., family member, personal assistant, teacher, direct support staff).
  • Catheter

    tube inserted into the body for fluid withdrawal, such as urine, used by an individual who has lost bladder control due to a disability
  • Cerebral palsy

    A family of syndromes with disordered movement and posture and delayed motor development; characterized by exaggerated, uncontrolled, or involuntary muscular movements caused by injury to the part of the brain that controls and coordinates movement.
  • Certified interpreter

    a sign language interpreter who meets the requirements under the Illinois Interpreters for the Deaf Act and is registered with the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission.
  • CILA - Community Integrated Living Arrangement

    a type of community-based “group home” that typically houses one to eight individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • CILs - Centers for Independent Living

    Nonprofit, non-residential, community-based organizations that are controlled, managed, and operated by people with disabilities. CILs provide a wide variety of services to people with disabilities, including information and referral, peer counseling, skills training, personal assistant referral service, and individual and systems advocacy.
  • Coded disclosure

    a hint, rather than a direct statement of sexual abuse or other maltreatment.
  • Cognitive impairment

    any impairment of cognitive functions, which include processing information, awareness, and judgment.
  • Colostomy

    a surgical operation and its result in which the large intestine is brought through the abdominal wall to empty into an appliance that has a plastic bag.
  • Communication disorder

    a problem with hearing, language, and/or speech, including articulation, voice, and fluency.
  • Community mental health center

    provides an array of community-based mental health treatment services to individuals with acute and chronic mental illness, including acute care and crisis emergency services, outpatient mental health treatment (e.g., counseling, medication monitoring, psychiatric services), and rehabilitation support services.
  • Complex partial seizure

    a.k.a. psychomotor seizure - a type of partial seizure that includes altered consciousness and often semi-purposeful movements or activities (e.g., robotic behaviors, such as running, fumbling with objects or clothing, or lip smacking). A complex partial seizure is often preceded by a simple partial seizure.
  • Congenital

    present at birth; either genetic or acquired due to toxic agents (teratogens) or mechanical failures.
  • Consumer

    a.k.a. client - a person who is a recipient of services.
  • Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act

    a Federal law enacted in 1988 to remedy the lack of data and information about the problem of victimization of people with disabilities. In addition to other provisions, the Act mandates that the Bureau of Justice Statistics ask questions about disability status when conducting the National Crime Victimization Survey.


  • Deaf

    refers to such a severe to profound hearing loss that the person cannot understand speech even with the use of a hearing aid, and must rely on visual communication.
  • Delusion

    a persistent false belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self; false belief that is firmly held despite objective and obvious contradictory proof or evidence and despite the fact that other members of the culture do not share the belief.
  • Depression

    mental state characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, and self-reproach; accompanying signs include psychomotor retardation or at times agitation, withdrawal from interpersonal contact, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
  • Developmental disability

    a disability which is attributable to an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or autism; or any other condition which results in impairments similar to that caused by an intellectual disability; originates before 18; is expected to continue indefinitely; constitutes a substantial handicap in three or more major life areas; and the person needs lifelong supports and services.
  • Developmental disability (Federal definition)

    A severe, chronic disability of a person who is 5 years of age or older that: 1) is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or a combination of mental and physical impairments; 2) is manifested before the person attains the age of 22; 3) is likely to continue indefinitely; 4) results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the areas of major life activity (self-help, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency); and 5) reflects the person's need for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment, or other services that are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated. Applies to infants and young children from birth to 5, who have substantial developmental delay or specific congenital or acquired conditions with a high probability of resulting in developmental disabilities if services are not provided.
  • Diabetes

    disease characterized by inadequate utilization or secretion of insulin in the metabolism. Complications associated with long-standing inadequately controlled include cardiovascular problems; high blood pressure; pain in legs; burns, cuts, and minor injuries may be slow to heal and prone to infect; gangrene and amputation; visual impairment and blindness.
  • Diagnosis

    diagnosis is both a process and an outcome; the process of compiling and categorizing signs and symptoms (medical, emotional, or social) exhibited by an individual and formulating a solution based on that compilation; also involves eliminating other possible categorizations and causes.
  • Diagnostician

    a person who makes a diagnosis.
  • Disability

    a physical or mental impairment that substant1ally limits one or more major life areas. Disability may be temporary or permanent, reversible or irreversible, and progressive or regressive.
  • Domestic living situation

    a residence where the person with a disability lives alone, with his or her family or household member, a caregiver, or at a board and care home or other community-based unlicensed facility.
  • Down syndrome

    a congenital condition characterized by the presence of an extra chromosome and usually resulting in intellectual disability


  • Echolalia

    parroting; repeating words, phrases, and sentences. Echolalia can be immediate or delayed, with the latter being more pathological. Echolalia after the appropriate developmental stage is a sign of language deviance.
  • Elective mutism

    refusal to speak.
  • Encephalitis

    inflammation or infection of the brain tissue, usually viral in origin; one of the known causes of mental retardation.
  • Epilepsy

    umbrella term for various disorders marked by disturbed electrical rhythms of the central nervous system; typically manifested by involuntary muscular contractions (seizures).


  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

    refers to a range of birth defects which can include abnormal facial features, stunted growth, nervous system problems and other physical problems. It can occur if a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. Children with FAS may have physical disabilities and problems with learning, memory, attention, problem solving, and social/behavioral problems.

  • Financial abuse (generic definition)

    theft or misuse of money.
  • Financial exploitation (generic definition)

    utilizing the financial resources or property of an individual for the benefit of another without the person's permission.
  • Fingerspelling

    communication via signs made with the fingers, spelling out each word letter by letter; allows for the rendering of proper names, specialized terms for which no sign exist, and slang.
  • Flight of ideas - a.k.a. racing thoughts

    rapid succession of fragmentary thoughts or speech in which content changes abruptly and speech may be incoherent, as seen in mania.
  • Fragile-X syndrome

    a hereditary form of mental disability, most common in males, that has been associated with an unusual "fragile" site on the X chromosome. Associated features include prominent jaw, large ears, large testes, and mild connective tissue abnormalities.


  • Gait - a.k.a. walk

    pattern of walking.
  • Generalized seizures - a.k.a. tonic-clonic seizure, grand mal seizure

    involve the entire brain, are characterized by loss of consciousness with tonic (increased muscle tone) and then clonic (rhythmic contraction and relaxation) movements.
  • German measles

    see rubella.
  • Guardian of estate

    has authority to handle the money, property, bills, and other financial affairs of the person.
  • Guardian of person

    has authority to make decisions concerning the personal and physical care of the person, including health care decisions and living arrangements.
  • Guide dog

    see service animal.


  • Accessible parking placard, license plate or tag

    approved placard, license plate, or tag that identifies a vehicle as operated by or for the transport of a person with a disability who is eligible to use parking marked as reserved for persons with a disability.

  • Hallucination

    false sensory perception occurring in the absence of any external stimulation; hear (auditory), see (visual), feel (tactile), or smell (olfactory) things that are not heard, seen, felt or smelled by others.
  • Handicap

    a disadvantage for a given individual resulting from an impairment or disability that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that would otherwise be normal for the individual. The term is often inaccurately used as a synonym for disability; should not be used to describe a disability.
  • Hard of hearing

    a hearing loss of mild to severe level in which the person has difficulty hearing, but can understand speech either with or without the use of a hearing aid.
  • Harmful genital practice

    a form of sexual abuse; unwarranted, intrusive, and/or painful procedures in caring for genitals or rectal area.
  • Hemiplegia

    cerebral palsy that involves half of the body (e.g., the arms, arm and leg on the same side of the body); total or partial paralysis of one side of the body
  • Hypersensitivity

    increased sensitivity.
  • Hypersomnia

    excessive time spent asleep; causality due to many factors.


  • IADL

    instrumental activities of daily living, include going out to doctor or shopping, light housework, preparing meals, paying bills, using the telephone.
  • ICFDD/ICFMR - Intermediate Care Facility Developmental Disabilities/Intermediate Care Facility Mental Retardation

    a residential setting serving four or more individuals and meeting Federal ICF/MR requirements; provide services to individuals with severe to profound disabilities and/or those who require nursing care.
  • Idiosyncratic

    an individualizing characteristic or quality; a peculiarity of temperament or character.
  • Impairment

    any obstacle, condition or injury which interferes with normal functioning; temporary or permanent.
  • Indicator of maltreatment

    warning sign of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Indicators are not "hard and fast proof" that maltreatment is occurring or has occurred; rather the "sign" indicates that something is happening in the life of the individual that deserves a further look by a person in a position of authority.
  • Insomnia

    prolonged and unusually abnormal inability to obtain adequate sleep.
  • Institution

    a developmental disability facility, nursing home facility, or other long-term care facility.
  • Integration

    the use of the same community resources that are used by and available to other citizens and participation in the same community activities in which nondisabled citizens participate, together with regular contact with nondisabled citizens, and residence in homes that are in proximity to community resources.
  • IPP - individualized habilitation plan - a.k.a. individualized program plan (IPP); individualized education plan (IEP)

    a document containing a statement of present level of functioning for an individual with a disability, as well as a listing of goals, objectives, and services with stated completion dates, performance criteria, evaluation procedures, and the plan for service delivery to meet those needs and goals.
  • IQ - intelligence quotient

    a quantitative index of an individual's level of mental development derived from performance on a test designed to measure intelligence. The average or norm score is 100. A score of 69 or below is one criterion for a determination of mental retardation.
  • ISP - individualized service plan

    a document containing a statement concerning the total habilitation needs of the person, including education, employment, social, emotional and placement, combined with a plan for meeting these needs and naming a responsible service coordinator to oversee the plan's enactment.


  • Job coach - a.k.a. job trainer, employment specialist

    places and trains a worker in a community job and provides as much training and follow-along support as is necessary to keep the individual in the position.


  • Legally blind

    defined as a visual acuity in both eyes of less than 20/200 or a visual field loss of less than 20 degrees despite the best correction with lens.
  • Limited guardianship

    awarded when the judge determines that the individual is competent to handle some of his or her affairs. The authority of the guardian is clearly stipulated to those matters that the individual cannot safely handle.
  • Lipreading

    see speechreading.


  • Major life activities

    under the ADA, includes speaking, hearing, seeing, breathing, working, learning, walking, taking care of oneself, and performing manual tasks.
  • Maltreatment - a.k.a. bad treatment

    to treat cruelly or roughly; a general term meaning abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Mania

    a mood disorder characterized by elation, agitation, hyperactivity, hyper-excitability, and accelerated thinking and speaking; characterizes the manic phase of bipolar disorder.
  • Medicaid

    a Federally supplemented state administered health insurance program for people with financial needs. Medicaid employs a financial means test to determine eligibility. Funds long-term care and support for people with developmental disabilities through the Intermediate Care for Facility for People with Mental Retardation (or developmental disabilities) (ICF/MR) program and the Home and Community-Based Services Waiver Program (HCBS).
  • Medicare

    a Federally funded comprehensive health insurance program enacted as a supplemental entitlement under the Social Security Act of 1935. Medicare has two parts: Hospital Insurance and Supplemental Medical Insurance.
  • Meningitis

    an infection of the meninges (covering of the brain and spinal cord). Long-term consequences may include mental disabilities, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and sensorineural hearing loss. Outcome depends on the organism causing the infection, age of the person, and duration of symptoms prior to treatment.

  • Mental disorder

    psychiatric illness or disease, whose manifestations are primarily characterized by behavioral or psychological impairment of function, measured in terms of deviation from some normative concept.
  • Mental illness

    mental disorder; any serious impairment of adjustment; any psychiatric disorder listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • Mental incapacity

    deficit in the ability to reason, make choices, understand the consequences of one's actions, plan for the future; the individual is unable to make legally binding decisions.
  • Mental retardation - a.k.a. intellectual or cognitive disability

    a developmental disability which is characterized by significantly sub-average intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with related limitations in two or more life areas (communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure and work), and originating before the age of 18.
  • Mobility disability

    a disability which may involve limited use of one or more limbs due to paralysis, weakness, stiffness, amputation or loss of balance or coordination; also referred to as a physical disability or impairment
  • Monoplegia

    cerebral palsy that involves one arm or leg.
  • Multiple sclerosis

    progressive disease of the central nervous system marked by hardening of neurological tissue in the brain or spinal cord resulting in partial or complete paralysis or tremors; onset occurs in early adulthood and is episodic.
  • Muscular dystrophy

    a group of genetic disorders leading to progressive muscular atrophy (wasting) and weakness. When the muscles that carry out respiration are involved, the disorder can become fatal.
  • Mutism

    inability or refusal to speak.


  • Narcissistic

    grandiose sense of self-importance, exhibitionistic need for attention and admiration, exaggerated responses to criticism or other perceived threats to self-esteem, and disturbance in interpersonal relationships.
  • Neglect (generic definition)

    failure to provide goods and services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness.
  • Nonverbal communication

    signals and messages given from one person to one or more other people through facial expressions, body movements, verbal tone, or posture.


  • Organic brain syndrome

    loss of intellectual functioning as a result of disease or injury resulting in deterioration in the brain; not a result of the normal process of aging


  • Paralysis

    loss or impairment of voluntary movement; a neurological impairment.
  • Paraplegia

    involves the lower half or lower extremities of the body; paralysis of the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs.
  • Passive neglect (generic definition)

    unintentional failure to provide a person with life's necessities, including but not limited to food, clothing, shelter or medical care.
  • People first language

    language that recognizes the person first, then the disability
  • Peripheral vision

    a visual field of less than 10 degrees, in which the person cannot see ahead, rather can see a small area on either side to the left and right.
  • Petition for involuntary admission

    process by which an individual who is in need of immediate hospitalization to protect the person or others from physical harm is evaluated and certified to be in need of psychiatric hospitalization.
  • Physical abuse (generic definition)

    acts of violence that may result in pain, injury, impairment or disease; includes hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pushing, choking, pinching, shaking, scratching, biting, burning, pulling hair, striking with objects, force-feeding or forcing a person to ingest noxious substances, using a weapon to injure, unreasonably confining or restraining, improperly using medication, and incorrect positioning.
  • PKU - phenylketonuria

    an inborn error of amino acid metabolism. Failure to detect and treat can result in intellectual disability, microcephaly (abnormally small head), heart disease, and seizures.
  • Plenary guardianship

    full guardianship; awarded when the judge determines that the individual is unable to handle any of his or her affairs.
  • Polio - a.k.a. poliomyelitis - infantile paralysis

    a viral infection of the central nervous system that can produce a permanent paralysis usually more seriously affecting the lower extremities.
  • Pressured speech - a.k.a. hyperverbality

    increase in the amount of spontaneous speech; rapid, loud, accelerated speech, as occurs in mania, schizophrenia, and organic disorders.
  • Prostheses - a.k.a. prosthetic device

    an artificial body part (e.g., leg, arm, and glass eye).
  • Psychological abuse - a.k.a. emotional abuse (generic definition)

    acts of verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment or intimidation.
  • Psychological neglect (generic definition)

    failure to provide social stimulation.
  • Psychomotor agitation

    physical and mental over-activity associated with a feeling of inner turmoil, as seen in agitated depression.
  • Psychomotor retardation

    slowing of mental and physical activity, common in depression.
  • Psychosocial

    involving both psychological (mental and behavioral processes) and social (interacting of the individual with others) aspects.
  • Psychotic disorder

    a mental disorder in which a person’s thoughts, affective responses, ability to recognize reality, and ability to communicate and relate to others are sufficiently impaired to grossly interfere with the capacity to deal with reality


  • QMRP - qualified mental retardation professional

    the person responsible for the development of consumer individualized service plans (ISP), oversees implementation of the ISP, and coordinates the activities of multiple service providers who are simultaneously serving the needs of one client. A QMRP must have at least one year of experience working directly with individuals with intellectual disability or other developmental disabilities and be one of the following: doctor of medicine or osteopathy, registered nurse, certified occupational therapist or occupational therapist assistant, certified physical therapist, registered physical therapist assistant, master's level psychologist, social worker, speech language pathologist or audiologist, BA level professional recreation staff person, registered dietician, or a BA level human service's professional.
  • Quadriplegia

    involves the entire body, including both arms and legs; paralysis of both arms and legs
  • Qualified interpreter

    a trained and certified sign language interpreter who can interpret receptively, expressively and impartially in communication with a Deaf or hard of hearing person using sign language.


  • Racing thoughts

    see flight of ideas
  • Reasonable accommodation

    workplace modification to a job site, situation or routine allowing a person with a disability to perform that job; assumes he or she has the ability to perform all of the essential functions of the job and the accommodation can be made without undue hardship to the employer.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (PL 93-112)

    a Federal law with a civil rights component that prohibits denial of participation in Federally funded programs or activities to individuals with disabilities who are otherwise qualified. The Americans with Disabilities Act was modeled after components of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Respite care

    service to provide family caregivers of children and adults with developmental disabilities a temporary break from care giving; services provide in home or at an out-of-home setting.
  • Rubella - a.k.a. German measles

    a prenatal cause of disability; infection of the mother one month prior to conception and during the first and second trimester can result in the development of congenital birth defects (e.g., blindness, deafness, microcephaly, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and heart defects.)


  • Sadistic

    pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior whereby physical cruelty or violence is used to inflict pain on others and not to achieve some goal.
  • Schizophrenia

    a thought disorder characterized by disturbances in thinking, mood, and behavior. The thinking disturbance is manifested by a distortion of reality, sometimes with delusions and hallucinations, accompanied by a disconnect of associations that results in disturbances of speech.
  • Seizure

    a convulsion or epileptic attack; a seizure is characterized by a burst of electrical activity in the brain that is clinically manifested by unconsciousness or impaired consciousness usually with rhythmic movements of the extremities (arms and legs) and/or other atypical behaviors.
  • Self-injurious behavior - SIB

    self-inflicted, repetitious, and chronic behaviors that can cause physical harm and tissue damage to the person performing these behaviors (e.g., face slapping, head banging, biting, pinching, scratching, gouging of self, rumination, pica, and eating feces). The behaviors are most common in individuals with severe intellectual disability.
  • Self-stimulating behavior

    persistent, highly repetitive motor actions that have no recognizable purpose and are not injurious to the individual (e.g., hand flapping, rocking, and finger flicking). These behaviors are most common in individuals with autism and with moderate to profound Intellectual disability.
  • Sensory

    involving the senses (e.g., taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing).
  • Service animal - a.k.a. support animal, guide dog

    dog or other animal that is trained to assist a person with a disability, such as people who are blind, have a mobility impairment, or epilepsy.
  • Sexual abuse (generic definition)

    occurs when an individual is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced into sexual contact of any type against his or her will.
  • Shaken baby syndrome - a.k.a. abusive head trauma, shaken brain trauma, pediatric traumatic brain injury, whiplash shaken infant syndrome, shaken impact syndrome

    shaken baby syndrome is causedby vigorous shaking of an infant or young child by the arms, legs, chest or shoulders. Forceful shaking can result in brain damage leading to mental retardation, speech and learning disabilities, paralysis, seizures,hearing loss and death.
  • Sheltered workshop

    a specialized work setting for people with developmental disabilities. Workshops provide employment based on the person's ability to produce, rather than on a competitive employment model.
  • SIB

    see self-injurious behavior.
  • Sickle cell anemia

    a genetic disorder that is common in African American and Mediterranean populations. In the disease, the red blood cells assume a sickle shape that can cause a stroke by blocking blood flow through vessels. Such brain damage can produce one-sided paralysis, loss of language skills, or intellectual disability. The sickling can cause pain and swelling of the hands and feet.
  • Sign

    something that can be observed by another person.
  • Signed English - a.k.a. Siglish, pidgin sign English

    a sign system that shares some of the characteristics of American Sign Language and some of English. More similar to standard English in grammar and structure than ASL.
  • Simple partial seizure

    a seizure type that originates in one specific part of the brain resulting in focal or localized symptoms, including motor, sensations, psychic characteristics; consciousness is unimpaired; may evolve into generalized seizures or complex partial seizures.
  • SODC - State Operated Developmental Centers

    provide residential care for individuals with developmental disabilities who have extensive medical needs or behavioral challenges
  • Spasticity

    a specific type of cerebral palsy that results in high muscle tone; the muscles in the affected area are tight or stiff. Body movements are difficult to control.
  • Speechreading

    an educational method for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing that utilizes visual cues to determine what is being said. People "read" speech through interpretation of the speaker's lips, facial movements, hand and body expressions, and gestures. Formerly known as lipreading. Only about 30 to 40 percent of words can be read from the lips with a degree of accuracy by the skilled speechreader.
  • Spina bifida - a.k.a. neural tube defect

    a developmental defect of the spine; incomplete closure of the embryonic neural tube that results in a defect of the spine and paralysis below the level of the lesion. Intellectual disability or learning disabilities are common.
  • SSDI - Social Security Disability Insurance

    a Federally funded social insurance program to provide a minimum income for workers with disabilities and their families.
  • SSI - Supplemental Security Income

    a Federally funded income maintenance program that provides people with disabilities a minimum monthly income; administered through the Social Security Administration; eligibility requires evidence of both disability and low income.
  • Suicide

    act of taking one's own life; although the underlying factors that leads a person to take his or her own life may not necessarily be fully understood by the person, the act of suicide is considered to be both voluntary and intentional
  • Support animal

    see service animal.
  • Supported employment

    on-the-job coaching that supports the worker with intellectual disability (or other disability) in a competitive employment situation.
  • Symptom

    something that is experienced by the person.


  • TDD - Telecommunication Device for the Deaf

    see TTY
  • Tonic-clonic seizures - a.k.a. grand mal seizures

    the most common seizure disorder, occurs in two phases. During the tonic phase, the body becomes very rigid. If the individual is standing or sitting, the tonic phase will often result in the individual falling to the ground unconscious. The clonic phase that follows also affects the entire body. During this phase, the body jerks in a rhythmic pattern. As time passes, the jerking becomes less intense. The individual will often awaken very tired and confused.
  • TTY - Teletypewriter

    a device used by people with a hearing or speech disability to communicate on the telephone. A TTY is a keyboard with a display for receiving typed text that can be attached to a telephone. The TTY user types a message that is received by another TTY user at the other end of the line. Also referred to as a TDD, Telecommunication Devise for the Deaf.
  • Tunnel vision

    a visual field of less than ten degrees; the person can see a small area directly ahead.


  • Visual acuity

    a measurement that reflects the eye's ability to see at both near and far distances and to distinguish details and shape. Each eye has its own level of visual acuity.
  • Visual communication

    refers to lip reading, gestures, fingerspelling, sign language, signed English, and writing and sharing notes.
  • Visual field

    refers to the width or breadth of vision. It is the area that can be seen with the eyes fixed, looking directly ahead. The normal vision field is approximately 170 degrees (an angle of 85 degrees on each side of a central line).
  • Visual impairment

    refers to vision that is functional with correction (e.g., can read large print). Visual acuity ranges from 20/70 to 20/200 with correction.
  • Vocational rehabilitation

    medical, therapeutic, counseling, education, training, assessment, and other services designed to prepare people with disabilities for work.