Learning about technology accessibility is a journey! Whether you’re just starting off or you’ve been on the accessibility path for a while, you may encounter lingo that you’re not yet familiar with. Check out our list below to learn some essentials about various terms, and if you notice we’re missing one, email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get it added!
- Definition: The concept of designing physical and virtual spaces and points of contact so that they are usable to all people, with an intentional focus on ensuring usability for people with disabilities.
- Example: an accessible public event would have features like a sign language interpreter(s), real time captioning, and adequate audio support in order to allow the audience to engage in the content and experience.
- Reason why: access as a starting point acknowledges that humans are diverse and evolving, and especially for public spaces, accessibility is a minimum standard for inclusion.
- Also may be called: Inclusive Design, Universal Design
Prefer to listen to some accessibility info? Check out A11Y Audio!
- Definition: A shorter way to write “accessibility,” with 11 representing the count of letters between the letter a and the letter y. Used often in social media when in reference to web or technology accessibility.
- Example: learn more about Technology A11Y at Wake.
- Reason why: A11Y signifies content related specifically to digital accessibility and is a quicker shorthand than writing the entire word.
- Also may be called: accessibility
- Additional links: The A11Y Project
- Definition: Auxiliary aids and services that are provided upon request in order to facilitate access.
- Example: extended time on a test, a sign language interpreter added to an event on request, a transcript provided on request for a podcast.
- Reason why: accommodations reduce or eliminate barriers for an individual who has disclosed their disability to allow them to successfully access digital content or activities. Although the goal of proactive accessibility is to reduce the need for reactive accommodations, the need for a strong system to support and provide some accommodations, given the varied materials and services and diversity of individual needs, will always remain.
- Also may be called: academic accommodations
- Definition: Techniques that people with disabilities use to navigate computers and digital content. Adaptive strategies may or may not involve the use of assistive technology.
- Example: dark mode settings, captions on a video call, text enlargement features.
- Reason why: adaptive strategies allow people to engage with their computers and the web in a way tailored to their specific needs or preferences.
- Definition: A piece of assistive technology which allows people with certain mobility and fine motor disabilities to use electronic devices.
- Example: foot switches to control navigation of a web page, sip-and-puff systems, a small box with buttons, a joystick for navigation.
- Reason why: an adaptive switch provides an alternative to mouse or keyboard use to navigate a web page or other digital materials for those with disabilities that impact their mobility or dexterity.
- Also may be called: assistive technology, adaptive technology
Alt (Alternative) text
- Definition: A short, concise written description that conveys the meaning and function of images in their context.
- Reason why: alt text provides information about the image for users of screen readers, braille displays, and other assistive technologies. It also benefits users when images don’t load for reasons of tech or data transfer issues.
- Also may be called: alternative text, alternate text, alt tags, alt descriptions
- Other possible definition: In the context of accommodations, “Alt Text” may describe alternative media and documents, i.e. text in alternative (alt) format.
ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Application)
- Definition: A set of enhancements that can be added to HTML elements to make web pages more accessible for those using assistive technology such as screen readers.
- Additional Links: ARIA in HTML from the W3C
ASL (American Sign Language)
- Definition: A manual and visual language which uses the hands, arms and fingers, instead of sound, to communicate words and concepts. ASL may be a primary language used by those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Countries and even dialects can sometimes have different sign language lexicons.
- Reason why: supporting ASL through ASL interpretation can be an important inclusion and accessibility strategy, particularly in live information situations.
Assistive listening device
- Definition: Tool that assists those with hearing disabilities by amplifying sound or providing visual or vibratory alerts.
- Example: television and telephone aids, alerting or signaling devices, personal or large area assistive listening systems.
- Reason why: assistive listening devices remove communication barriers by helping those with hearing disabilities access auditory information.
- Also may be called: assistive listening systems, auxiliary aids, ALDs
- Definition: A piece of software or hardware that supports access and use of digital and physical content and services for people with disabilities.
- Example: screen readers, page zooming software, speech to text tool
- Reason why: familiarity with common kinds of assistive technology and how they interact with digital content allows creators and designers to build content and services that are inclusive of users with disabilities.
- Also may be called: adaptive technology, AT
- Definition: A device that uses screen reading technology to translate words shown on a computer screen into a braille format.
- Example: refreshable braille display
- Reason why: this device allows people who are blind or have low vision to physically access and read digital content.
- Also may be called: refreshable braille display
- Definition: A time-synced text version of the spoken part of a television show, movie, or computer presentation. “Quality” captions, which are most useful, should be edited for accuracy and include additional context such as time stamps and speakers’ names. “Open” captions are always on and cannot be turned off, while “closed” captions can be turned off by the user.
- Reason why: quality captions aid people who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. Captions also support users who cannot listen to audio due to a variety of factors, such as environmental or connectivity issues.
- Also may be called: quality captions, open captions, closed captions
CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation)
- Definition: A speech-to-text service that displays a complete transcription of all spoken words and environmental sounds to communicate a message, edited in real time by a stenographer or a voice writer.
- Reason why: CART helps provide equal access to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing quality live captions.
- Also may be called: real time captioning, computer-aided transcription services
- Additional links: a short video introduction to CART captions
- Definition: Measures the visual contrast difference between the color of the text and the background color of that text
- Reason why: poor color contrast can make visual content illegible to people with color blindness (also called color vision deficiencies) or with low vision. Also, poor color contrast can make printed materials or digital materials difficult to read for all readers when considering factors such as screen size or brightness.
- Also may be called: visual contrast, text contrast, contrast
- Additional Links: WebAIM Color Contrast Checker
- Definition: A framework of headings that organizes the content of a web page or document like a table of contents. Headings are hierarchical with the Heading 1 (H1) representing the main idea in the document and sub-sections marked with H2, H3, etc.
- Example: examples can be found on this page from W3C.
- Reason why: headings help screen reader users scan for information and are essential for assistive technology users to quickly access website information.
- Also may be called: h1, h2, h3, etc., or heading styles
HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
- Definition: The standard language that is used to develop the content of a web page.
- Reason why: a screen reader interprets the HTML of a webpage to make the content accessible to assistive technology users.
- Additional links: introduction to HTML
- Definition: The ability to navigate through a web page or other digital material with only the keyboard, not requiring a mouse or other visual pointing device.
- Example: tabbing through items in a website menu or tabbing between fields in an online form.
- Reason why: some users of a website or other digital material may have visual, mobility or other disabilities that do not allow them to interface with the material with a visual pointing device like a mouse.
- Also may be called: keyboard accessibility
- Additional links: keyboard-Only Navigation for Improved Accessibility
Math ML (Mathematical Markup Language)
- Definition: A programming language that describes mathematical notations and relays both its structure and content.
- Reason why: provides a more accessible way for assistive technology users to interact with functions as digital content, such as equations and square roots.
- Additional links: what is Math ML?
- Definition: Text that helps users know where a hyperlink is directing them. To be meaningful, the linked text should also be unique within a page and be purposeful when read out of context.
- Example: the Accessible Content Working Group’s membership list is a meaningful link. Telling the user to click here to learn more about the members of the ACWG is not a meaningful link.
- Reason why: meaningfully linked text allows assistive technology to identify a link by a concise, descriptive phrase. Also, meaningful links allow all users to identify the meaning and content of a link more efficiently.
Native digital document
- Definition: A document that has been created from another electronic document (as opposed to a non-digital, print document)
- Example: a PDF version of a Microsoft Word document
- Reason why: native digital documents are more accessible to users of assistive technology, as compared to documents that contain a scanned image that will most likely be completely inaccessible.
- Also may be called: born digital document
- Definition: An annual event hosted by Wake Forest, PDF Makeover is an effort to convert this file type into a more accessible format, such as a web page, Google Doc, or Canvas page. Additionally, files can be remediated to include accessibility features while remaining PDFs. PDFs, which are widely used for digital documents, capture information in an electronic image but may do so in a way that loses accessibility features, like the ability to be navigated logically by a screen reader.
- Reason why: if not created with attention to accessibility, PDFs can serve as barriers for individuals with disabilities and can limit the audience. Therefore, PDF challenges strive to enhance accessibility. Although an annual Wake Forest event, PDFs can be edited for accessibility any day!
- Example: a PDF may lack heading structure that is crucial for those who use screen readers to efficiently navigate its text content. In a PDF challenge, the document could be edited to contain heading structure. The content could also be provided through another format, like a Google Doc, with appropriate accessibility features in place.
- Definition: Editable and selectable digital text.
- Example: This definition is real text: try selecting it with your cursor.
- Reason why: real text can be magnified without losing resolution and can be read by various assistive technologies, like text-to-speech tools. Content creators often lock their text into images where it cannot be edited or selected, which limits how well the audience can engage with the content.
- Also may be called: digital text, selectable text
- Definition: Text to speech technology that, by interpreting computer code, converts visual content on a screen into spoken words.
- Example: NVDA (Windows), JAWS (Windows), VoiceOver (Mac)
- Reason why: screen readers help people who are blind or have visual or reading disabilities interact with digital content.
- Also may be called: page reader, text-to-speech
- Additional links: screen reader demo video
- Definition: The original, electronic version of a document.
- Example: a Microsoft Word document containing an essay as written by the author.
- Reason why: it is easier to build accessibility features into a document in its original format during the creation process, rather than converting it into a less accessible format such as a PDF.
- Definition: Speech-to-text software converts spoken words from a user to electronic written text. Certain speech-to-text tools also support the voice-controlled navigation of a computer.
- Example: Dragon/Nuance, Google Live Transcribe
- Reason why: speech-to-text software allows users with visual, mobility, or other disabilities to input text into their devices and to navigate their devices using their voice as opposed to a keyboard, a visual pointer, or adaptive switches.
- Also may be called: dictation, voice typing, speech recognition
TAP (Technology Accessibility Program)
- Definition: Wake Forest’s Technology Accessibility Program is coordinating efforts to make campus technology and digital content more accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities. The Technology Accessibility Program seeks to raise awareness, to create and offer resources for campus members, and to give guidance to our community about how best to add technology accessibility to their roles on campus.
- Additional links: TAP
- Definition: The concept of ensuring websites, digital materials, and technology-delivered services are created and maintained so that they can be used equitably by everyone.
- Example: designing a website that does not require a mouse for navigation, sharing a digital image that includes a description (alt text) that can be read by a screen reader, creating a kiosk with haptic and audio feedback.
- Reason why: digital materials and technology-mediated services and products need to be designed for a wide audience. This can minimize the need for individual changes to the materials or service when the users have a variety of ways they need or want to engage with the content or services.
- Also may be called: digital accessibility, A11Y
- Definition: Software that reads digital text aloud using a synthetic (or digital) voice
- Example: Read Aloud, ReadSpeaker, Read & Write, Capti, Speechify
- Reason why: users who have limitations to their access to printed text or visual text because of a disability use text to speech software to access digital content. Text to speech software can only read real text, (selectable text), aloud.
- Also may be called: read aloud software, screen reader
- Definition: A written version of content which was originally spoken. Transcripts should include speaker names and usually include time stamps.
- Reason why: transcripts support people with hearing, cognitive or other disabilities to access the content of a presentation. Also, transcripts can be a useful tool for those who are primarily visual learners.
- Definition: The process of creating products that are accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities so that they are usable in both physical and digital environments.
- Example: curb cuts at the edge of sidewalks allow wheelchair users and users with other mobility aids to use public walkways, and they are also useful to folks with strollers, carrying luggage, or rolling carts.
- Also may be called: UDL (Universal Design plus “for Learning”)
- Additional links: what is Universal Design
- Definition: An event that allows people to gather simultaneously via a digital platform.
- Example: A virtual webinar on Zoom, a meeting on Microsoft Teams.
- Reason why: virtual events can provide equal access in ways that are difficult to ensure at in-person events. It is vital to consider the accessibility of your chosen platform and provide accommodations during virtual events.
- Additional links: Improving Accessibility and Inclusion in Virtual Spaces (TAP)
WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
- Definition: An international standard for web accessibility.
Each guideline is followed by ways to achieve success.
- Example: WCAG Guideline 1.4.3 sets the minimum color contrast ratio for regularly sized text at 4.5:1.
- Reason why: by setting benchmarks, WCAG encourages web designers and content creators to make web content that is accessible for people with disabilities.
- Also may be called: WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, WCAG 2.x, WCAG 3.0
- Additional links: WCAG 2.1 as of June 5, 2018
This Glossary is created and supported by the IS Technology Accessibility team and the ACWG.