A educational support plan under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for students who may not qualify for special education services.
Access Board (Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board)
The Access Board is an independent federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Board develops accessibility requirements for the environment, including electronics and information technology. It also provides guidance on these requirements and enforces them for federally funded facilities.
access, accessible, accessibility
A building, technology device, work environment, school course, or program is considered “accessible” if it is easily usable by a person with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines “access” more specifically as removing barriers that would keep a person with a disability from entering, functioning, living, and working within a place.
A modification made to a job, task, or environment so that a person with a disability can perform or enter it. Examples are computer forms instead of paper-and-pencil, flexible work schedules, and ramps. See also reasonable accommodations.
activities of daily living
Basic personal activities that include eating, dressing, mobility, bathing, transferring from bed to chair, and using the toilet.
adult day care
A daytime community-based program for adults with disabilities that provides a variety of health, social, and related support services in a protective setting.
adult services agencies
Public and private organizations that provide services to individuals with disabilities after they exit high school and, at times, during the transition process.
In the most general sense, an advocate is a professional, friend, or family member who helps a person with a disability to stand up for themselves. There are also education advocates, trained professionals who help families develop individualized education plans (IEPs) for their children, manage interactions with school personnel, and provide recourse if things go wrong. There are two types of advocates: private, independent professionals whom parents can hire to help with IEP evaluation and appeal process; and Educational Advocates (sometimes referred to as a surrogate parent), who may be assigned by the Department of Education to act on behalf of a child when the child’s parents are unavailable or have no educational decision-making rights.
Formats that make printed material accessible to people with disabilities. They include computer text files (electronic text), large print, audiotape, and Braille.
Professional and family organization that promotes progressive policies, research, effective practices, and universal human rights for people with intellectual disabilities.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
The federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, government services, telecommunication, transportation, and “public accommodations” – places such as hotels, auditoriums, stores, public transportation terminals, museums, parks, schools, and daycare centers. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 extended the law’s protections to a greater number of people.
Money designated by Congress or a state legislature to pay for programs that have been put into action by a law. If money is not appropriated, a given law or program, despite being signed into law, may not happen.
A family-based, national advocacy and service-providing organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
See Access Board
assistive technology (AT)
Any device or service that facilitates function for a person with a disability. Assistive technology services include evaluating a person’s needs; choosing, designing, and/or customizing the equipment; and training the person on how to use it. May also be called “adaptive technology.”
Non-medical help provided to a person who has difficulty performing daily living tasks, such as personal care or housekeeping. Professionals who provide attendant care are often called personal care attendants.
augmentative and alternative communication
Devices that assist people who have unclear speech or are unable to speak.
Auxiliary Aids and Services
Devices or services that assist a person with a disability that affects communication. The term includes interpreters and communication devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing; qualified readers, taped texts, Braille, or other mechanisms for persons with visual impairments; and equipment for persons with other communication disabilities.
An approach to architecture and design that creates buildings, transportation systems, and outdoor environments that people with disabilities can enter and use independently and safely. See also universal design.
barriers to employment
Term that covers a wide range of life situations that may cause a person to have trouble finding or keeping a job, such as low literacy, lack of education, or disability.
Model methods and procedures to follow. Often used to describe model programs or agencies. There is an assumption that some type of evaluation or research has been used to choose the practice, although this may not be true. A similar term is promising practices.
A way the Federal Government gives funds to states. Block grants offer states more flexibility in how they choose to run their programs.
See traumatic brain injury.
Business Leadership Network (BLN)
A consortium of companies interested in promoting employment for people with disabilities. The BLN is a venture of the federal U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. http://www.usbln.com.
Working with an agency or community to increase its own ability to provide services, rather than relying on outside consultants.
Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act
See Perkins Act.
caseworker, case manager
A human services professional who provides case management services to clients of an agency, assessing a client’s needs, creating a service plan, and coordinating services.
Centers for Independent Living (CILs)
See independent living center.
Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
The federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid. Formerly named the Health Care Financing Administration.
Massachusetts's “Turning 22 Law.” This law directs IEP teams to send information to the state disability agency whose services they think a student with significant disabilities will need after they exit high school. The team is expected to make this referral at least 2 years before the student turns 22 years old or exits school. The educational services students are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act end when they leave school, so it is important that IEP teams make these referrals.
The Massachusetts state special education law. It is similar to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but establishes guiding principles for special education specifically for the state. Chapter 766 applies to eligible students with disabilities, ages 3 through 21.
children with special health care needs (CSHCN)
Children with medical conditions or disabilities who require more support, treatment, and consideration than the typical child needs.
A model of employment support for people with psychiatric disabilities that focuses on what the person wants to do and the skills (emotional and practical) they need to succeed on the job.
A person who is receiving services from a human services agency.
Client Assistance Program (CAP)
An agency that provides information and assistance to people who are seeking or receiving state vocational rehabilitation agency services, including help with legal complaints or problems. Many CAPs are housed within Protection and Advocacy programs.
A psychosocial rehabilitation program for individuals who have psychiatric disabilities working in conjunction with paid staff. Clubhouses emphasize social connections and individual control, and often provide help with employment.
A prosthetic device that may help a person who has severe hearing loss experience useful hearing. Cochlear implants are controversial in the Deaf community, because some people do not see deafness as something that needs to be “fixed.”
Different people and organizations use this term differently, but it generally includes learning disabilities and/or traumatic brain injury. Similar terms are mental disability and intellectual disability.
A situation where several agenciesshare space to make it easier to provide coordinated services. Co-location is a priority for One-Stop Career Centers.
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)
Communication service that makes meetings or other speech accessible to people with hearing disabilities. Trained staff type what is being said, and the transcript is simultaneously displayed on a computer monitor or projected onto a large wall screen.
A board or book that has pictures, symbols, letters, or words attached. A person communicates by pointing to or looking at the pictures or symbols.
A public or private nonprofit that is representative of a community or a significant segment of a community, and is engaged in meeting human, educational, environmental, or public safety needs in the community.
Any service that gives support to people with disabilities who live in their communities, not in a nursing home or institution.
See inclusion and community integration.
The full participation of people with disabilities in their communities, as active members in the workplace, religious groups, schools, neighborhoods, etc. (synonymous with inclusion). See Community Life Engagement.
Community Life Engagement
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities accessing and participating in their communities outside of employment as part of a meaningful day. Community Life Engagement activities include things that anyone in the community might do, such as going to the gym, volunteering at a homeless shelter, taking an adult education class, or participating in a religious organization. Community Life Engagement supports, which may be referred to as Community-Based Non-Work, wraparound supports, holistic supports, or community integration services, support participation in such activities.
community rehabilitation provider (CRP)
An agency, typically private and non-profit, that provides employment services to adults with disabilities. May also be called a provider, service provider, or vendor.
A job that is open to all qualified applicants, and where the person receives a competitive salary. See also integrated employment.
Programs or human resources that help school- and work-based educational programs as described in the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.
A legal arrangement where a person (the conservator) provides financial oversight for a person with a disability. Apart from finances, the person with a disability makes their own decisions. A person who only handles monthly benefits on behalf of the beneficiary, and does not handle the person's other finances, is called a representative payee.
A person with a disability who receives services from an agency. More generally, any person with a disability. Used instead of “patient,” “client,” or “recipient” to suggest that the person has an active role in determining the services they use.
In the disability field, an agency changing its services from a sheltered employment or non-work program to helping people find jobs in the community.
cultural competence, culturally competent
Services or attitudes are culturally competent if they take into account the unique needs of people from different backgrounds (for example, people from a particular ethnic identity, gender identity, or socioeconomic status).
cultural sensitivity, culturally sensitive
See cultural competence.
dayhab, day habilitation
Nonwork program for adults with disabilities – program that includes recreation, therapies, and possibly some skill training, but not employment.
day program, day services
Program for adults with disabilities that provides structure and activities during the day (generally from 9am to 3pm). May include sheltered work activities, therapies, or recreation on the site of a facility. See also nonwork program and day habilitation.
Policy that moves people and services from large group institutions to smaller group living situations or individual homes in the community.
See service system.
Small project that tests a new approach or theory, with the hope that, if successful, it will then be replicated by people or agencies in other, similar situations.
Department of Labor
Both federal and state agencies that supervise, provide, and fund services to serve businesses’ needs and help people find jobs. In some states, the Dept. of Labor houses the vocational rehabilitation agency, which focuses on employment for eligible people with disabilities.
Department of Mental Health (DMH)
General name for the state agency that provides services to people with mental health disabilities and sometimes substance abuse problems. This department usually focuses on treatment, support, and recovery, but most have other programs as well, such as housing support, skill training, and employment.
Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDD)
General name for the state agency that oversees services to people with intellectual disabilities and (depending on the state) developmental disabilities. These agencies provide or fund a range of services, including residential, family support, life skills training, case management, recreation, non-work day programs, and employment.
A disability that originates before age 18, can be expected to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial limitation in at least three major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act)
Federal law that authorizes a network of programs that support people with developmental disabilities and their families, including Developmental Disabilities Councils, Protection & Advocacy Systems, and University Centers of Excellence.
Developmental Disabilities Council (DD Council)
An independent agency (one for each state) that promotes policies and legislation for the disability community. Part of the Developmental Disabilities Network.
Developmental Disabilities Network (DD Network)
A system of specific agencies in each state (University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities Councils, and Protection and Advocacy agencies) that together provide research, support, advocacy, and legal defense for people with developmental disabilities. These agencies are designated by federal law.
A procedure to identify children who should receive more intensive assessment or diagnosis for potential developmental delays. It can allow for earlier detection of delays and improve child health and well-being for identified children.
Support services that are provided directly to an individual, e.g., on a job in the community or in a living situation. Direct service staff are counselors, caseworkers, therapists, or anyone else who provides these services. The term usually does not include teachers or medical professionals.
Limitation of typical physical, mental, or social activity. Legally defined in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as: (1) A person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) A person with a record of such a physical or mental impairment; or (3) A person who is regarded as having such an impairment.
Disability Rights Movement
The collective efforts of advocates to secure equal rights, equal opportunities, and an environment free of barriers for people with disabilities.
The act of informing people that one has a disability.
durable medical equipment (DME)
Equipment such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and prosthetics that are used at home. Also called home medical equipment.
Early Intervention (EI)
Services for children aged birth to 3 who have a disability. Covered in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee (EITAAC)
A subcommittee of the federal Access Board that sets standards for ensuring that electronic and information technology devices are usable (accessible) by people with disabilities. EITAAC also provides training and technical assistance on these standards to both federal agencies and consumers. EITAAC is comprised of 26 organizations representing federal agencies, technology industries, and nonprofit agencies serving individuals with disabilities.
employment specialist, employment training specialist (ETS)
A staff member who helps people with disabilities find jobs. Sometimes used interchangeably with job coach, rehabilitation counselor, vocational counselor, rehabilitation counselor, or job developer.
A model of supported employment where individuals with disabilities work in a group at a community business with ongoing support and possibly supervision provided by rehabilitation agency staff. These individuals might not be integrated with other employees of the company who do not have disabilities.
A legal right to services. Entitlement programs cannot restrict services based on funding constraints.
Legal term and federal requirement that employers not discriminate (in hiring, firing, salary, promotion, and other terms and conditions of employment) based on factors unrelated to a person's ability to do the job, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and disability.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Federal agency that has oversight to ensure that people are not discriminated against based on factors unrelated to their qualifications for a job.
essential job functions
The fundamental duties necessary to perform a particular job. Term used in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A test or assessment that gathers information about an individual’s strengths, needs, and interests in order to determine the services they need to succeed. Evaluations are used to determine eligibility for special education, vocational rehabilitation, and other publicly-funded programs. See also situational assessment and vocational evaluation.
Communication that is assisted by a person or a device. See also augmentative and alternative communication.
Gradually removing on-the-job professional support to a worker with a disability as the worker becomes more accustomed to doing the job independently. See job coach.
Services provided to help families keep a member with a disability at home. These include recreation programs,cash subsidies, vehicle modification, special clothing, and respite care.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
The standard for educational services set by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. FAPE guarantees that for students who are found eligible for special education, school districts must be prepared to provide services according to an Individualized Education Program beginning no later than their third birthday. Services continue until the student graduates from high school with a standard diploma or turns 22, whichever comes first. FAPE also means that students receiving special education services have access to and make meaningful progress in the general curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum as students without disabilities), and have the right to be full participants in the life of the school.
future planning, futures planning
In the broadest sense, planning for the future. May be used to refer more specifically to person-centered planning. (There is also a particular method of person-centered planning named Personal Futures Planning.)
gastrostomy tube (g-tube)
A tube that allows a person to be nourished via formula directly into the stomach, bypassing the mouth and esophagus.
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
The investigative arm of Congress, GAO analyzes the use of public funds and evaluates federal programs to help Congress make effective oversight, policy, and funding decisions.
general education curriculum
This refers to what students in kindergarten through high school are taught. The curriculum is usually framed around state education guidelines, such as basic academic standards for reading, math, writing, science, and social studies as well as college/career readiness standards. A high school diploma is generally awarded to students who have met the general education requirements set by the school district.
In a disability context, usually refers to an agency or office that provides services to a wide population, including but not limited to people with disabilities. This is in contrast to “disability-specific” (a service or program that is only for people with disabilities). For example, a vocational rehabilitation agency is disability-specific, but a One-Stop Career Center is generic.
(board and care home, adult care home, group residence) A residence that offers housing and personal care services for residents with disabilities. Services such as meals, supervision, and transportation are usually provided by the owner or manager.
The term “handicapped” has fallen out of favor, replaced by “person with a disability.” (Handicapped parking is called “accessible parking.”)
hard of hearing (HH, HoH)
People who have some hearing, are able to use it to communicate, and feel reasonably comfortable doing so.
hard to serve, harder to serve
Terms sometimes used to describe people who have difficulty finding or keeping jobs, sometimes due to the nature of their disability or other barriers to employment. Used primarily in the welfare system.
See traumatic brain injury.
Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA)
See Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
A disability characterized by difficulty hearing or a limited range of hearing.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
Federal law that sets standards for health insurance coverage. Title I protects coverage for workers (and their families) when they change or lose jobs. For individuals who have consistently had medical coverage, previous treatments cannot be considered a “preexisting condition.”
See non-apparent disability.
home and community-based waiver (HCBW, the Medicaid Waiver)
Under a waiver, states may offer a wide array of community and home-based services, funded by Medicaid, so a person can live in the community instead of an institution or nursing home. Depending on the services listed in a state's waiver, Medicaid can fund services that increase a person's ability to work and to become integrated into their community.
One of the requirements to qualify for Medicare home health care. Means that someone is generally unable to leave the house, and if they do leave home, it is only for a short time (e.g., for a medical appointment) and requires much effort.
The group that develops an IEP (Individualized Education Program) for a student. The team must include the student’s parents, at least one special education teacher, a representative of the district, and a person who can interpret test results and determine how the student’s needs will impact them in the classroom. When the student may be or is attending general education classes, the team must include a general education teacher.
Any loss or abnormality of psychological or physical function.
The active engagement of people with disabilities in all levels of society, where they are valued contributing members who have a sense of belonging. Sometimes used specifically to refer to participation in school – the full integration of students with special needs into the regular classroom with typical students.
independent living (IL)
An advocacy movement and philosophy that holds that individuals with disabilities have the right to live with dignity and with appropriate support in their own homes, fully participate in their communities, and control and make decisions about their lives. People with disabilities are active consumers of services and advocates for personal independence, equal rights and opportunities, consumer choice and control, and the removal of barriers to full participation.
Independent Living Center (ILC)
Community-based, consumer-controlled, not-for-profit centers governed by a board of directors of whom at least 51% are people with disabilities. Services provided include peer counseling, information and referral, independent living skills training, and advocacy. May also be called a Center for Independent Living (CIL).
independent living services
Services that maximize the independence and productivity of people with disabilities and promote integration into the community, such as peer counseling, disability education, and personal care attendants (PCAs).
Individual Program Plan (IPP)
A plan that is tailored to help a person achieve the outcomes and future they want for themselves or their family member with a disability. The plan is developed through a person-centered planning process with a team that includes the consumer, the service coordinator, and important people in the consumer's life such as parents, extended family, friends, or people who provide support.
Individual Service Coordination (ISC)
A service families may use when they need help obtaining support for their children with disabilities to live as independently as possible in the community. ISC is a distinct social service that enables people with intellectual disabilities and their families to find, use, and coordinate available resources. Other terms used to describe ISC activities include service coordination, service integration, and client-level service coordination and case management.
individual with a disability
In the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of that person's major life activities, someone who has a record of such impairment, or someone who is regarded as having such an impairment. Regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act define “major life activities” as functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The federal special education law. IDEA requires public schools to offer all eligible children with disabilities a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) appropriate to their individual needs, through age 21. States vary, but in general, IDEA ensures that a child who has a disability that interferes with learning has the right to an evaluation to determine whether they need support services to succeed in school.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
A student’s special education service plan, developed by a team that includes the parents, school staff, and possibly health care or community service staff (see IEP team). The IEP outlines the student’s educational strengths, needs, and goals, and the services to which the student is entitled in order to meet those goals. This plan must be reviewed every year, but can be revisited more frequently if the family or student requests.
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
A plan written for all children, birth to age 3, who receive Early Intervention services and their families to identify services that the child will receive. The IFSP includes a transition plan once the child is two years old to ensure a smooth transition from Early Intervention to the public school system.
Professional training for people who are already working in a particular field. See also preservice.
Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Oversight committee in a medical or academic institution that monitors research studies to make sure that no people are harmed in the research.
A job in a community workplace where most people do not have disabilities. Generally includes supported employment. The phrase is usually interchangeable with competitive employment.
See cognitive disability. Previously known as mental retardation, a term which has now fallen out of favor.
The modification of a job, job site, or work process to make a particular job accessible; often used to assist a person with a disability to be successful in their job. Also see accommodation.
The creation of a new job by taking some tasks out of an existing job or jobs. This technique is often used to create jobs for people whose qualifications may not exactly match the requirements of an existing job.
A human services professional who provides support to employed people with disabilities at job sites in their communities. Job coaching activities may include analyzing a job’s tasks; teaching each element of the task to the employee until that individual masters the activity; and helping the employee make social and professional contact with their colleagues, including assistance from the colleagues on the job (natural supports). Job coaching is usually one part of supported employment.
Developing new jobs (for people with disabilities).
The way a job is set up – the job's functions or tasks, its hours, job requirements, etc.
“a job in the community”
A “typical” job in a workplace where most employees do not have disabilities, as opposed to a job in a sheltered workshop or other non-integrated setting.
Job-finding technique that focuses on finding the right job for a person (and vice versa). It involves matching the job seeker’s individual interests and skills to the requirements of a specific job. This philosophy often stands in contrast to the old way of finding employment for people with disabilities, where the person was expected to change in order to fit job requirements.
The process of finding or creating a specific job opportunity in the community for a person with a disability. Employment counselors (rehabilitation counselors, job developers) may speak of “placing” a person “into a job.”
A philosophy that focuses on skills an individual with a disability must have before they are “ready” to look for a job in the community. Now falling out of favor and being replaced by the philosophy that most people are ready to work, if offered appropriate supports, at a job that is a good match for their skills and interests.
A serial publication that focuses on policy, research, and practice for a given profession or academic discipline. For a peer-reviewed journal, all articles are read and reviewed by qualified experts who select or reject articles for publication.
learning disability (LD)
A disorder that impacts the way a person processes information, or the way they understand or use language (spoken or written). Can also refer to an inability (specific difficulty) to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematics. People of all levels of intelligence can have an LD. The term “learning disability” does not refer to problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or physical disabilities; intellectual disabilities; emotional disturbance; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. Specific learning disabilities include dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, or the term may refer to more general difficulties such as auditory processing problems.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Legal/legislative term for an education program to ensure that a student is educated with general education students as much as is possible for the student, and that special or separate classes are used only when the student cannot be educated in regular classes even with extra supports and services. OR Means that students with disabilities must be educated to the maximum extent possible/appropriate with students without disabilities.
Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB)
See Workforce Investment Board.
Less common. Usually seen as part of the phrase “low-incidence disability,” meaning a disability that not many people have.
major life activity
A term from the Americans with Disabilities Act that refers to basic activities that the average person in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
marginal job function
A job responsibility that is not central or necessary to the job.
Name of the Massachusetts state Medicaid program.
Maternal & Child Health Bureau (MCHB)
A federal agency under the Dept. of Health and Human Services that funds programs to improve the health of mothers and children.
Medicaid (Title XIX)
The federal-state health insurance program that provides medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources (including senior citizens, people with disabilities, and people who receive welfare benefits). Within broad guidelines set by the federal government, each state establishes its own eligibility standards; determines the type, amount, length, and scope of services; sets the rate of payment for services; and designs the administration.
Medicaid Buy-In program (MBI)
Programs that extend eligibility for Medicaid to people with disabilities whose income level or assets would otherwise disqualify them. The idea behind MBI is to give people greater security when entering or returning to work.
Not a home but a system of medical care, the primary place where a child with special health care needs receives medical care. The system focuses on a doctor who knows the big picture of that child's healthcare, and primary care providers who coordinate specialists.
Services or supplies that are appropriate and consistent with the diagnosis in accord with accepted standards of practice (not considered experimental), and that cannot be omitted without hurting the individual's condition.
Services that help someone regain or improve physical or mental functioning, such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
A person who has high medical or nursing needs requiring constant care and observation. For instance: frequent seizures, artificial airways, fed by a special medically installed tube, breathing assisted by a ventilator, heart and/or breathing monitors, and airway suctioning.
The federal health insurance program for older Americans and people with disabilities who have, or whose spouse or parent has, earned income and paid into Social Security.
Medicare supplemental health insurance, to cover anything that Medicare doesn't cover.
See cognitive disability.
See psychiatric disability.
An educational process where an experienced person (mentor) serves as a role model, trusted counselor, or teacher who provides support, information, encouragement, and advice to a person with less experience.
The organization and reasoning system – either quantitative (numerical data) or qualitative (non-numeric) – used by a research study to collect data and reach results.
To demonstrate appropriate behavior or the best way to do a task by doing it in front of the person who is learning.
multidisciplinary conference (MDC)
A follow-up meeting, after an evaluation for special education services, where the professionals who have evaluated the student meet with the school and parents to discuss their findings and determine whether the student qualifies for special services. If the student does, an MDC must be held every three years to determine continuing eligibility. Professionals involved may include psychiatrists and occupational or physical therapists.
An independent federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress on disability issues. NCD has 15 members appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. NCD promotes policies and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities and empower individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society. NCD is particularly focused on the implementation and enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws.
National Council on Independent Living (NCIL, pronounced “nickel”)
A cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities that advocates for the expansion of a nationwide network of Centers for Independent Living (CILs).
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Division of the federal National Institutes of Health that funds and conducts medical research on mental disorders. http://www.nimh.nih.gov
National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)
NIDILRR provides leadership, funding, and support for research that improves the lives of individuals with disabilities. Major focus areas are employment, health, technology, independent living and community integration, policy, and statistical measures. NIDILRR is part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services within the federal Department of Education.
Employment support services (such as mentoring, socializing, providing feedback on job performance, or learning a new skill) provided on the job by a co-worker or supervisor, instead of job coaches or other human services professionals.
A technique to find jobs that relies on talking to informal contacts (such as family members and local community acquaintances). The idea is to learn about various types of work, to build community connections, and potentially to get connected to employers or hiring opportunities.
A disability that does not have visible signs, such as a learning disability, mental illness, or epilepsy.
A program for adults with disabilities that includes recreation, therapies, and possibly some skill training, but not employment. May be called day habilitation or dayhab.
occupational therapy (OT)
Treatment, exercises, and assistive devices that help people to develop fine motor skills (such as writing and manipulating objects) and perceptual ability, and to improve their independence with activities of daily living.
Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
A division of the U.S. Department of Labor whose mission is to increase employment of persons with disabilities through policy analysis, consultation, and outreach. ODEP formerly existed as the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
A federal agency that supports programs that educate children with disabilities, provides for the rehabilitation of youth and adults with disabilities, and funds research to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
The federal division that administers programs and projects relating to the free appropriate public education of all youth with disabilities from birth through age 21. The bulk of federal special education funds is administered by OSEP, as are the Early Intervention and preschool grant programs for services to children aged birth through five.
One-Stop Career Center (also known as American Job Center)
A “one-stop shop” for employment services for all job seekers, including those with disabilities. Services are provided by a number of state and federal agency partners, including vocational rehabilitation. One-Stop Career Centers are sponsored by the US Department of Labor. A basic level of services (“core services”) is available to anyone.
orientation and mobility
Training for people with low or no vision to enable them to travel independently. Training may include use of low vision aids, a cane, or a guide dog.
A program whose goals (and evaluation criteria) are based on outcomes (what the program accomplishes) as opposed to the activities or services the program conducts.
outplacement, out-of-district placement
A school program (day or residential) in a private school for a student on an Individualized Education Program who is not receiving appropriate support in their local public school. The fees for an outplacement are paid by the local school district.
In schools, a person who is trained to perform part of a job (such as teaching or health care), but does not have a degree or formal professional training. Paraprofessionals are often responsible for providing support (with personal needs or academic work) to people with disabilities during the school day.
Transportation service for people with disabilities who cannot use regular public transportation, or find it difficult to use. Local governments that operate public transportation are required to also provide paratransit.
Professional evaluation of services performed by other members of the profession (peers). Often used in relation to published journal articles, which often must be judged by peer review prior to being accepted for publication.
peer-reviewed journal, peer-review journal
The name of a number of local self-advocacy groups run by and for people with disabilities. Sometimes used as a name for the self-advocacy movement as a whole.
Perkins Act (Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, P.L. 101-392)
This federal law requires that individuals with disabilities be provided with equal access to recruitment, enrollment, and placement in vocational activities. It also requires that students with disabilities have equal access to the full range of vocational education in the least restrictive environment, and that they be provided equal access to vocational services including recruitment, enrollment, and placement.
person with a disability
A variety of definitions are used, and it is important to understand which one applies when reviewing legal or medical information. Legally defined in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.” See also disability, individual with a disability.
A program or method (for example, for finding a job or for making choices around a living arrangement) that is focused on and driven by the interests and choices of the person with a disability.
An approach to career planning that focuses on the strengths and interests of the individual and brings in the resources of supportive friends, family members, service providers, and other members of one’s personal network. There are many methods for this type of planning, including Whole Life Planning, MAPS, Personal Futures Planning, PATH, and Individual Service Design.
A way of referring to people with disabilities that is considered respectful by many in the disability community. This language style literally puts the person first when referring to disability, for example, by saying “person with a disability” instead of “disabled person” or “the disabled.” Other examples: “man who uses a wheelchair” instead of “handicapped man”; “girl with Down syndrome” instead of “Down syndrome girl.”
personal assistance services (PAS)
Services, directed by a person with a disability, that enable them to live in the community and carry out functions of daily living, self-care, and mobility. This may include personal care services such as helping someone bathe, dress, or eat. A person who provides these services is often called a personal care attendant (PCA).
personal care attendant/assistant (PCA)
PCAs assist people with disabilities in activities such as dressing, eating, bathing, moving from bed to chair, or using the bathroom. A PCA may be an employee of a home health agency or may be hired privately by a consumer or family.
Attendance in a program, school, or residential situation (as in outplacement) or a job (see job placement).
Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)
A Social Security Work Incentive that allows someone on SSI to “set aside” a portion of their earnings towards a specific work-related goal, such as training to become a receptionist. The income set aside is not counted when determining eligibility for SSI or the amount of the individual’s SSI check. PASS plans also allow individuals to save money toward a larger goal without that money being counted for SSI asset limits.
Education above the high school level, including community college and university courses.Sometimes refers to any kind of education in adult settings, including vocational and lifelong learning classes.
Methods and procedures that have the potential to improve the way a system currently works. See also best practices.
Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&A)
A nationwide network of congressionally mandated, legally based disability rights agencies. Part of the Developmental Disabilities Network.
provider, provider agency
Organization that provides services to people with disabilities. Also known as a vendor or service provider. Most providers are nonprofit organizations that receive funding from state agencies. Providers may also be a for-profit business or a government organization.
Any of a range of mental health disorders or conditions that impacts someone’s daily functioning. Sometimes referred to as “mental illness.” Examples of psychiatric disabilities include anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. For more information, visit NARIC’s website.
Medical, social, educational, and/or vocational services to improve independence for people with psychiatric disabilities.
Private businesses that are open to the public, such as hotels, auditoriums, stores, public transportation terminals, museums, parks, schools, and daycare centers. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, activities in these places must be accessible to people with disabilities.
qualified individual with a disability
Term used in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “An individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” A person who is qualified (by skill, experience, and/or education) to perform a particular job. Under the ADA, employers may not discriminate against a qualified candidate because the candidate has a disability.
Research that uses observations and interviews, not numbers, to collect detailed information about a situation. This data cannot be “quantified” (see quantitative) or analyzed using statistics. Instead, it is organized to draw larger conclusions about a situation.
quality of life
How “good” and satisfying a person's life is, in their assessment.
Information that can be analyzed using statistics. This may be numbers (30,000 people live in a town), or data that can be converted into numbers, such as yes/no questions.
A legal term from the Americans with Disabilities Act for an action that can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense. Employers must remove barriers to participation when such changes are “readily achievable.” Factors considered include the company's overall financial resources, safety requirements, and the effect of changes on the company's activities.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, any change an employer makes that allows a qualified person with a disability to
(1) have equal opportunity in the hiring process;
(2) perform the essential functions of a job;
(3) enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
More generally, a change in the way something is done to allow a person with a disability to participate in a place, job, or program.
record of impairment
Term used in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A history of having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A person who used to have a disability, or was misclassified as having a disability, may be covered by the ADA, because employers may discriminate on the basis of the person's past experience.
Sending a person to another agency, school, or professional for services.
Practices and activities that train or retrain people with disabilities to function at the highest level possible. There are several different types of rehabilitation: vocational, social, psychological, medical, and educational. Depending on context, “rehabilitation” may refer to recovery from illness; a program for people who have problems with substance abuse; exercises to improve physical or mental functioning; or vocational rehabilitation (services to help a person find or keep a job).
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, P.L. 93-112 (Section 504)
See also Section 504.Federal law that protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities in federally-supported or -run programs, including health or social programs that receive federal funding. This law prevents these programs from excluding or restricting people with health impairments, and entitles students to accommodations such as modified assignments or testing situations. Section 504 covers a larger group of students with disabilities than do special education laws.
Human services professional who assists a person with a disability to find and maintain employment through such services as vocational evaluation, career counseling, job development, and help with the job search. The term generally refers to someone who has received specific training at the master's degree level, and may be certified as a CRC (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor). This term refers to employment, not medical, rehabilitation. Related professionals include job coaches, job developers,employment specialists, and employment training specialists.
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC)
Center funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to conduct research and training on a particular aspect of living with a disability, such as services for people in rural areas, spinal cord injury, or employment.
Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
Federal agency that oversees programs that help people with disabilities find employment. RSA's major program provides funds to state vocational rehabilitation agencies.
Transportation, developmental, corrective, and supportive services that a student with a disability needs to fully participate in school. Schools are required to provide these services, which may include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and counseling.
A person (usually a friend or family member) who receives a Social Security check on behalf of a recipient who has difficulty managing their benefits on their own. The check comes in the name of the payee, not the recipient.
respite, respite care
Short-term, at-home care (from a few hours to a few days) from trained professionals or volunteers so that the parents or regular caregiver can take a break.
A process in which patients are physically restrained with mechanical devices in order to make them immobile; sometimes includes the use of drugs, called “chemical restraint.”
The use of quick procedures to differentiate persons who have a disease or a high risk of disease from those who probably do not have the disease.
screenreader, screen reading software
Software that allows people with difficulty seeing or reading information on a computer screen to access the information in other ways. Generally used by people who are blind or have visual impairments or certain kinds of learning disabilities. With the help of a screenreader, a person can hear the information on the screen spoken by a speech synthesizer, read the information in Braille, or see it magnified. Generally used by people who are blind or have visual impairments or certain kinds of learning disabilities.
The section of the Rehabilitation Actof 1973 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by agencies and programs (including schools) that receive funding from the Federal Government. The statute is intended to prevent intentional and unintentional discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Law that requires accessibility for all websites and information technology used by the Federal Government or contractors to the government. See www.section508.gov for more information.
Section 8 housing
Federal vouchers that allow low-income families, including those that have a family member with a disability, to rent an apartment.
seamless services, seamless service delivery
The smooth, coordinated delivery of services by different agencies in a way that saves time and reduces paperwork and duplication.
A national movement of people with disabilities speaking for themselves and making their own life choices, also known as the People First movement. The national organization is Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE).
A classroom where all the students have disabilities.
The ability of individuals to control their lives, achieve self-defined goals, and participate fully in society (from the Center for Self-Determination).
A technique to assist people with sensory processing disabilities, such as some individuals on the autism spectrum. Includes techniques such as pressure-touch that help the person from overreacting to certain stimuli.
serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI)
A term describing serious psychiatric disorders and major life dysfunction, often with a history of hospitalization. This is the term commonly used by mental health agencies.
The process of providing support services, training, and assistance to an individual or group.
service delivery area (SDA)
The geographical region in which a particular agency or division is responsible for providing, funding, or monitoring services.
service system, service delivery system
The whole of a state or area's way to provide services to people who need them; all the organizations providing support services in a given area. Synonym for delivery system.
Agency that provides services to people with disabilities. Also known as a vendor,provider, or provider agency.
Program in which people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities work in a segregated facility with other people with disabilities, with support from human service professionals. Individuals usually are paid less than minimum wage, often significantly less, based on their productivity. May also be referred to as “extended employment.”
A disability that has a major impact on a person's functioning. Often used instead of “severe disability.”
An evaluation that identifies a person's job interests and skills through the performance of job tasks in actual workplace environments in the community.
General term for benefits administered by the Social Security Administration, including SSI and SSDI.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Federal cash benefit to eligible workers (and, in some cases, their families) when they are unable to continue working because of a disability. SSDI is provided to a person with a disability who has earned income and contributed to payroll taxes (or whose spouse or parent has).
A term used in elementary and secondary education. Educational services that are tailored to meet the unique needs of an eligible student with a disability. Special education is provided at no cost to parents. Special education may include instruction in a typical classroom with additional support, resource rooms or separate classrooms, a student’s home, hospitals, or institutions.
Special Education Parent Advisory Council (PAC, SEPAC, SpedPac)
A group of parents who have children in special education in one town who organize to promote good education and advocate for their children’s needs.
General term for a disability or a health condition that means that a person needs support or services beyond those that are typically provided to their peers. See also children with special health care needs.
speech output software
Software that translates typed text into a code that can be “spoken” by a speech synthesizer. Speech output can be integrated into a specific application, such as a word processing program or screenreader.
Computer technology that allows a device to recognize and understand spoken words. A major application is in assistive technology.
Hardware that produces speech output from a computer. This can be an external unit that connects to a computer, or a built-in chip or circuit card.
Requirement to reduce assets or income in order to reach the financial eligibility level for Medicaid health insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Member of a group that has an interest (something at stake) in a particular program, such as consumers, families, or state agency staff.
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
A state/federal health insurance program for uninsured children.
State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB)
See Workforce Investment Board
In Massachusetts, a vocational rehabilitation agency term for the status of someone who has successfully obtained a job and kept it for 90 days. Mass
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
A division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers programs on substance abuse and mental health issues.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
The income level that ends SSDI benefits, at which point a person is considered to no longer have a disability or need support. Many people with disabilities choose to limit their work hours so as to stay under SGA and not risk losing their cash benefits, although work incentives can help prevent this issue. A different limit applies to individuals who are blind.
Term used in the Americans with Disabilities Act. The inability to perform a major life activity that an average person can perform; a significant restriction on the way an activity can be performed, as compared with the ability of an average person. A significant restriction on a person’s ability to perform a job, as compared with an average person having comparable skills, training, or ability.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
A federal program that provides a cash benefit to low-income children and adults with disabilities with no or limited work history who cannot work due to a disability. In some states, people who receive SSI are eligible for Medicaid.
supported employment (SE), supported work
A model of employment where a person with a disability works in the community with ongoing or intermittent support services from a disability professional (job coach) or their co-workers (natural supports).
Individuals with disabilities living in homes or apartments of their own (alone or with foster families or roommates), with support levels ranging from occasional check-ins from professionals to 24-hour personal care.
Services an individual with a disability requires to be independent. Examples include a job coach checking in on a person to ensure that they are doing well at work, or a personal care attendant offering help with activities of daily living.
An initiative that aims to change not a single program or policy but an entire system – multiple agencies, multiple levels of an agency, or several groups of people (staff, consumers, etc.). Systems change is based on the theory that true change can happen only when an entire system changes – that small alterations will only be absorbed into the way things have been.
A national organization that advocates for the full inclusion of persons with severe disabilities.
See Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.
Meetings held to determine a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Team members always include family members (or their proxies) and school representatives, and may include health care and community service staff. See IEP Team. Ed.
technical assistance (TA)
Synonym for “consultation.” An expert provides advice and resources to an agency to accomplish a certain goal, such as improving their employment services. Differs from a simple training session in that TA is often longer-term and more systemically focused.
Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD)
Device that lets people with hearing impairments communicate over phone lines through typing text.
See Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.
See Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.
Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (TWWIIA, TTWWIIA)
This law reduces barriers to work for people who receive benefits from the Social Security Administration. Provisions includeincreasing state options to provide Medicaid coverage, and increasing a beneficiary’s option to receive employment support services.
Section of the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits discrimination in “public accommodations” – places such as hotels, auditoriums, stores, public transportation terminals, museums, parks, schools, and daycare centers.
Section of the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits discrimination in employment.
Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The section of the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability by the Federal Government, federal contractors, and organizations that receive federal financial assistance, and in federally-run programs and activities.
Section of the Social Security Act that authorizes Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older Americans and some people with disabilities. See Medicare.
Section of the Social Security Act that authorizes Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for Americans with low incomes and/or disabilities. See Medicaid.
Former name of grants given to states under the Social Security Act that fund limited amounts of social services, now known as the Social Services Block Grant.
Training model in which workshop participants learn how to lead the workshop themselves.
transition, transition planning
A coordinated process in which a student with disabilities, aged 14-22, plans educational, community living and recreation, and employment goals for adulthood. Students and their transition team connect with classes, services, and resources while the student is still in school to ease the transition to adulthood. May also refer to the process of moving from Early Intervention services to the public schools at age three. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates that a special education student have an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) from age 14 until the student leaves the school system or turns 22.
Services that may include instruction, related services such as transportation, community experiences, daily living skills if needed, and person-centered planning, with the aim of preparing the student for adult life.
Transitional Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, welfare)
Benefits provided by the government to people with low incomes. The Federal Government gives funds to states (via block grants), which then design their own programs under certain general requirements. Since welfare reform in the mid-1990s, people are only eligible for TANF for a limited period of time and must fulfill a work requirement (unless they are exempt from time limits and/or work requirements, as are some people with disabilities).
traumatic brain injury (TBI)
A physical injury to the brain, after birth, that results in impaired cognitive functioning, ability to communicate, social/emotional behavior, or sensory, perceptual, or physical ability.
People who have generally not benefited from or participated in disability services to the extent that they could. These may include people of color, immigrants, non-English speakers, and people with low incomes.
Term used in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Major difficulty or expense in trying to accommodate an employee with a disability, considered in light of the employer's financial resources, facilities, workforce, and business operations. For example, it would not be difficult for a large corporation to install an elevator, but this might be an undue hardship for a very small, family-run company.
The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. A common example is sidewalk curb cuts. These not only make it possible for wheelchair users to cross the street, but also make crossing the street easier for people pushing baby strollers, pulling suitcases, using crutches, etc.
University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs)
A network of university-based, interdisciplinary centers that conduct research and train professionals in the developmental disabilities field. Part of the Developmental Disabilities Network; formerly known as University-Affiliated Programs (UAPs).
Agency that provides services to people with disabilities through a contract with state government. May also be called a provider, service provider, or provider agency.
vocational assessment, evaluation
A variety of tests and work samples administered by rehabilitation counselors or other human services professionals to assess a person's work abilities and aptitudes, typical performance on the job, and work behaviors. Vocational evaluation may take place in a rehabilitation facility, at a worksite (situational assessment), or at home.
vocational rehabilitation (noun)
Nonmedical services that help a person with a disability find and/or keep a job. The goal is to support each person to live a fulfilling life in their community, including through competitive employment.
vocational rehabilitation agency (VR)
Agency in each state that provides, funds, and/or monitors employment services for individuals with disabilities, with priority given to individuals with the most significant disabilities. VR agencies are funded largely by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and by the state.
Federal-state agency that provides employment services for people who are blind or have visual impairments. May be a separate agency or be incorporated into the general vocational rehabilitation agency.
Computer software that allows people to control a computer using their voice rather than their hands. See also: speech recognition.
SeeHome and Community-Based Waiver.
Tools to make online materials (including websites) usable by people with a range of disabilities. Considerations include use of plain language, screen reader functionality, and whether the website loads easily on a range of devices, from smartphones to older, slower desktop computers.
Financial and other benefits (usually including eligibility for Medicaid health insurance and other programs and services) provided by the government to people with low incomes. The term “welfare” itself typically refers to Transitional Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
whole life planning
A method of person-centered planning that helps people with disabilities develop and achieve their career goals with the support of family, friends, and service providers.
Options under Social Security for people who receive disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to enter the workforce. Work incentives are designed to reduce people’s concerns over losing their financial benefits and health care.
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)
A federal tax credit employers can get for hiring people with barriers to employment, including those with disabilities.
Workforce Investment Board (WIB)
A state or local board, at least 50% employers and the remainder designated state agencies and other interested parties, that oversees One-Stop Career Centers and other workforce development programs. WIBs are authorized by the Workforce Investment Act.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
A federal law, passed in 2014, to help job seekers, including those with disabilities, access training, education, and employment. Replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
See sheltered workshop.
wraparound services, support
Comprehensive services that cover all aspects of what a person needs when finding and entering employment. Services that take over where another agency or counselor leaves off, to ensure continuity of services for an individual.