Glossary

You may find that in this course we use terminology that you are unfamiliar with. This is why we have created this comprehensive GLOSSARY of terms.

If you think that there are any terms missing from this glossary that might be useful to fellow learners, please let us know in the comments below.

The glossary is available in Microsoft Word .docx format and PDF format.


AAC - Augmentative and alternative communication, an umbrella term for methods and technologies (e.g. communication boards and speech-generating devices) that help people with a wide range of speech and language impairments to communicate with family, carers and other people.

Accessibility - The extent to which a product (including software, websites and documents) or service can be used by everyone, regardless of disabilities.

Accessible documents - Documents that can be accessed by people with disabilities.

Accessible eBooks - Electronic books that can be accessed by people with disabilities.

Accessible games - Games that can be accessed and played by people with disabilities.

Accessible learning & teaching - Learning and teaching that doesn’t have any barriers for people with disabilities.

Accessible mobile apps - Applications for mobile devices that can be accessed on a mobile device by people with disabilities.

Accessible self-service kiosks - Kiosks (or self-service machines) that are accessible:

  • in terms of their location allowing users to find and use the machine, e.g. not sited at the top of a flight of stairs or behind a column,
  • in terms of their interaction style, e.g. content has understandable language and graphics; the task and task flow understandable; feedback is meaningful to the user; and tolerance for human error, etc.
  • in terms of their interface features, e.g. screens where display is visible whether a person is short or tall; alternatives to touch screens for people who cannot use them; interface components, such as knobs, levers, slots, scanners, card readers, etc. easily distinguishable using visual, tactile and audio clues; etc.

These machines are commonly targeted at the public and designed for independent use in unmanned service / product delivery situations. As convergence between different types of internet enabled devices continues, many kiosks may act as part of the delivery chain for a series of services/products. Accessibility issues must be taken into account if these services are to be used people of different abilities.

Accessible social network - Social network that can be accessed by people with disabilities.

Accessible videos & TV - Videos and television programmes that provide captions, sign language and audio description.

Accessible website - Website that can be used by people with disabilities.

Achromatopsia - Rare condition that causes the inability to perceive colour (i.e. everything is seen in white, black and shades of grey).

Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) - Intelligent and embedded technologies that aim to support people’s lives in an unobtrusive manner. In the smart-home domain, AAL technologies support an independent living of elderly people, people with chronic diseases and people with disabilities in their own homes, by the delivery of services related to their needs, including health and well-being, security, social life, energy management and remote control.

API - application programming interface, a term used in computing to describe how software components interact with each other.

Approaches to inclusion - Steps taken not to exclude minority groups.

ARIA - Accessible Rich Internet Applications. Additional markup (tags) for web content and online applications to enable assistive technologies to work with interactive content, as well as providing additional navigational and other support mechanisms in the code.

Assistive technologies - Technologies, both hardware and software, that assist people with disabilities.

ATM - Automated teller machine (also known as cash machine), a device that allows bank customers to withdraw money and perform other financial transactions.

Audio description - Spoken description of important information (in a video) that is otherwise only available visually.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) aid - Any device that can be used to help those who cannot use spoken language and need additional support by means of symbols, images and/or text.


Braille - Tactile writing system using raised dots that is used by blind people. Braille is traditionally written on embossed paper, where it uses 6 dots per character. On a computer, a screen reader can turn screen content into Braille, which is displayed on a refreshable Braille display, which uses 8 dots per character. Braille can also be produced with a slate and stylus, with a Braille writer, e.g. a portable Braille note-taker, or on a computer that prints with a Braille embosser.

Button switch - A single button device the replicates an input method used with single or double pressing and holding for those with physical difficulties.


Captions - Text alternative for speech and non-speech sound in a video typically displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Cerebral palsy - A neurological condition affecting the ability of the brain to control and coordinate muscles.


Decorative image - Image that does not provide information.


Economic aspects, business drivers - Things that can motivate organisations and people to improve something, e.g. increased sales as a consequence of improved digital accessibility.

Environmental aids - Technology that helps people interact with their environment.


Facebook - A social networking service with more than a billion users.

Flash animation - Application that offers multimedia experiences using the Adobe Flash software which can be made accessible when care is taken.


Google Docs - Online collaborative document writing and editing application.

Grid 2 - Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) software that is available for a computer or a portable device to aid spoken and written language.


ICT - Information and communications technology, i.e. the tools, both hardware and software, that people use to access, store, transfer and manipulate information.

Image description (also known as “long description”) - Detailed description of an image or other non-text content that is provided when a normal short text alternative does not suffice to represent the information of the image (e.g. for complex diagrams).

iPad - Tablet computer made by Apple.


Keyboard accessible - Accessible with a keyboard or through a keyboard interface, so that it is usable by those who cannot or do not wish to use the mouse and so that it can be reached by pressing a key or combination of keys.

Kinect - Voice and motion sensor input device made by Microsoft.


Legislation & standards - Laws and standards (“rules”), which may vary by country.


Macular degeneration - Eye condition that may result in blurred or no vision in the centre of the visual field. (The macula is an oval-shaped pigmented area near the centre of the retina of the eye.)

Minecraft - Video game using digital building blocks.

MOOC - Massive open online course, i.e. an online course that can be accessed by an unlimited audience, and that typically uses videos, readings, quizzes and discussion forums.


On-screen keyboard - Virtual keyboard displayed on screen allowing access without a physical keyboard.


PDF - Portable Document Format, a file format that describes the layout and graphical features of a document in a manner that is independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Originally developed by Adobe, PDF became an ISO standard in 2008. PDF documents with accessibility features are often referred to as “tagged PDF”.


QR code - Quick Response code, a type of two-dimensional barcode.


Retinitis pigmentosa - Degenerative eye disease characterised by changes in the retina, leading to night blindness, reduced peripheral vision and eventually blindness.

RFID - Radio-frequency identification, a technology that uses electromagnetic fields created by tiny computer chips to identify and track objects.

Rheumatoid arthritis - Autoimmune disorder that typically results in warm, swollen and painful joints, especially in the wrists and hands.


Screen reader - Software program that enables a blind person to get information from the screen through synthetic speech, Braille or both, and that goes beyond pure text-to-speech software because it also reads user interface elements such as navigational features and menus.

Smart home - Digitally enabled home with intelligent sensors.

SMS - Short messaging service, more commonly called text messaging.

Social model of disability - Social theory that regards people as being disabled by society’s lack of accommodation for their needs, and that is a reaction to the medical model of disability.

Switch access - A device that offers activation and entry to an application in a similar way to an input device – it may be a button, pad or mini joystick type for those with physical difficulties.


Tactile graphics - Images that use raised patterns that can be perceived through touch.

Text equivalent - Text information explaining the purpose of an image or other non-text object.

Text-to-speech software - Type of application that uses synthetic speech to read selected text aloud and that can be used to help those with reading difficulties. Unlike screen reading, not all the items on a screen are read unless chosen.

TTY - Teletypewriter (also known as textphone or telecommunications device for the deaf), i.e. a device that helps people with hearing or speech impairments to use text communication over a telephone line.


Usability - The extent to which a particular user or group of users can use a digital technology to achieve their goals.

User experience - Any experience of a user that is related to the use of a technology.

User interface personalisation - The process of adapting user interfaces to the specific users, at development time or at runtime. Such adaptations accommodate some aspects of use context, including the user’s personal preferences and needs (e.g. due to disability), the device(s) and assistive technologies being used as part of the runtime platform, and the concrete situation of use (location properties such as ambient light and noise).

User testing - Testing by end users rather than by the developers.

User-centred design (UCD) - Design philosophy that includes end users in every stage of the design process.


Visual perception disorder - Disorder affecting the ability to understand information visually.


Web accessibility - The extent to which a web technology can be used by everyone.


Xbox - Games machine developed by Microsoft.


YouTube - Video hosting website owned by Google.


© This work is a derivative of a work by the University of the Aegean, Stuttgart Media University and the University of Southampton licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton