Site Glossary

As part of our commitment to accessibility, we have prioritized plain language and added a glossary for our site that includes definitions of all terms of art, jargon, and other potentially confusing language used on our website. Glossary words are grouped by letter in alphabetical order.




The discrimination of and social prejudice against people who are perceived to be disabled, based on the belief that nondisabled people are superior; rooted in the assumption that disabled people require “fixing” and that people by are defined by their disability(ies). Ableism can be unintentional, and can be found in everything from language choices (such as phrases like “falls on deaf ears”) to entire systems (policies, education, agencies, even entire industries).

access and functional needs

Describes the situations when a person may need assistance to take action or participate in activities that would benefit them. An access and functional need may be temporary or permanent and is not related to a person having a diagnosis or other evaluation.

Examples of things that may contribute to an access and functional need include if a person has limited ability communicating in English, limited access to transportation or financial resources, physical or health limitations, the way an environment is set up, a person’s age or a person’s disability needs.

Sometimes AFN or DAFN (Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs) are used as a noun in place of “person/people with access and functional needs”, but this practice contributes to dehumanization, which people with disabilities and people with access and functional needs already experience frequently in disasters. It is not acceptable to refer to people using this acronym as a noun.

access barrier

A condition or obstacle that prevents individuals with disabilities from using or accessing knowledge and resources as effectively as individuals without disabilities; can be attitudinal, organizational or systemic, architectural or physical, information or communications, or technology.


A person with a disability can get the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability, in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with similar ease. The person with a disability must be able to get the information or complete the task as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability.

Accessible can also be used more broadly beyond the disability community; for example, for something to be accessible to people who use public transportation, or to people who are homeless. Generally accessible describes something that has consciously been created or changed to be thoroughly inclusive and supportive of people with less privilege than others.


The practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible, and specifically people with disabilities.

accessibility principles

Accessibility principles include the 4 principles of web accessibility and the 7 principles of universal design. All of the principles help guide designers to create accessibility with their design.

The 4 principles of web accessibility, also known as the web accessibility principles, include making sure that every person can receive all of the information they need (Perceivable), they can use the site, product, or environment to complete the tasks it was designed for (Operable), understand both the information provided and how to use the site/product/environment (Understandable), and that the site/product/environment can be accessed using a variety of tools and assistive technologies (Robust).

The 7 principles for Universal Design are: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and appropriate size and space for approach and use.


An alteration of environment, format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks.

Reasonable accommodations: refers to the legal requirement for an employer or school to make changes to a process or environment that allow a qualified person with a disability to do the essential tasks of the job or class. An accommodation is considered “reasonable” if it does not create financial problems for the employer or school when all of the employer or school’s resources are considered.

adaptive strategies

Techniques that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web; for example, increasing the font size in a common browser. Includes techniques with mainstream browsers or with assistive technologies.

alternative format

A document in large print, Braille, printed on colored paper, a paper copy of an electronic resource or vice versa, or an electronic resource in an alternative way, that provides equal access to information for people who are blind or low-vision.

alternative text or "alt text", "alt tags", or "alt descriptions"

Written copy that describes the content of images, graphs, and charts for screen reader users; can be added to the image’s HTML tag on a website.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

A federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public; signed into U.S. law in 1990.

American Sign Language (ASL)

The most commonly used sign language in the United States. It is often referred to by the acronym ASL.

assistive technology

Any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities; examples are screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice recognition software, and selection switches.

audio description

Also referred to as “description” or “visual description”, the verbal depiction of key visual elements in media and live productions; provides information on visual content that is considered essential to understanding the program or media.


benefits (disability benefits)

Federal and/or state funds for eligible people with disabilities to cover living expenses.  Benefits may also include healthcare and housing.


Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Bias can be conscious or unconscious, which means you may or may not know that you have a bias.

built environment

The human-made spaces in which people live, work, and spend time


capacity building

The process of developing and strengthening the skills, abilities, processes and resources that are needed to survive and adapt to change.

climate resilience

The capacity of a community, business, or natural environment to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from a climate-related disruption.

community inclusion

Community inclusion is the opportunity to fully be involved in all aspects of society and to contribute and feel a sense of belonging within the world.

Or: the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society—improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity.

competitive integrated employment

Work that is performed at the same rate of pay as employees without disabilities, doing comparable work in a setting that allows for interaction with people with and without disabilities, and which includes opportunities for promotion and increases in pay in alignment with other workers.

compliance requirements

The quality or qualification that must be met to follow a law, agreement, or expectation.

considerations documents

A considerations document identifies concepts, practices, and actions that need to be part of any plans, policies, and procedures for them to meet required standards and regulations.

continuity of operations

Ability to continue the essential functions of a workplace or organization when faced with disruptions to typical work functions.

curricula or curriculum

A collection of student experiences that occur in the educational process. This can include what subjects are taught, how they are taught, how students practice what they have learned, and what details are most important. Curricula is plural (more than one) while curriculum is singular (only one).


data-driven insights

Conclusions drawn from well-collected information about how something has functioned,  or other established criteria.

digital assets

Online or computerized materials. Can refer to documents, guides, videos, digital images, marketing materials, social media posts, audio files, and more.


Any condition that impacts the ability of a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the world around them, socially or materially. Disability may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors; and a disability may be present from birth or acquired during a person’s lifetime.

Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that limit or stop their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with nondisabled people.

disability bias

An unjust perception of disability that is based on stereotypes and/or limited information/misinformation about people with disabilities.

disability etiquette

Polite and appropriate ways to address or interact with people with different disabilities.

disability inclusion

The process of improving the terms on which individuals with disabilities take part in society to the fullest extent they choose.

Disability Inclusive Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Resilience (DIEPDR)

DIEPDR is built by the World Institute on Disability to meet the needs of businesses, organizations and government agencies for an inclusive and durable emergency plan.

DIEPDR is a tool to analyze, change, and create disaster preparedness plans, policies, processes, and responsibilities that protect lives and livelihoods before, during and after a disaster.

disability justice

Disability justice is a framework and social justice movement which focuses on examining disability and ableism as they relate to other forms of oppression and identity such as race, class and gender. There are 10 principles of Disability Justice, and they can be found on the website of Sins Invalid, who originated the term collectively as a group of Black and Brown disabled people.

disaster cycle

The ongoing progression of activities through the four phases of a disaster. The phases are 1. Preparedness, 2. Response, 3. Recovery, 4. Mitigation.


easy-access universal learning strategy

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) or universal learning strategy is an approach to teaching aimed at meeting the needs of every student.

emergency operations plan

A collection of documents that provide detailed descriptions of what a business or agency will do in an emergency. Emergency operations plans include all parts of the organization and all areas that will be addressed.


The quality of fairness, taking into account systemic inequalities to ensure everyone in a community has access to the same opportunities and outcomes.


Varying kinds of support and alternatives are provided so that people who are more marginalized than others receive the same access to opportunity with comparable likelihoods of success.

evidence-based practice

A way of doing something based on research and data, proven to be effective.


federal and state directives

Guidance from the national (federal) and state-level goals and related requirements. Directives identify the results needed in performance of a job or subject matter, and establish intended requirements for how it should be done.


gap analysis

A thorough review of existing policies, plans or procedures that identifies areas that can be improved or added.


hazard mitigation and risk reduction

Actions taken to prevent, avoid, or reduce the negative impacts caused by emergencies or disasters.


Inclusive of and addressing the entire body, topic, or problem.

housing culture

The local social, economic, and environmental factors that influence where and how people live, and the quality of the homes and related daily living resources available to them.

human-caused disasters

Disaster events that have a human cause, involving human intent, negligence, or error; or involving a failure of a human-made system. Some examples: war, biological or chemical threat, cyber-attacks, industrial accidents. Some natural disasters can also be human-caused such as fires, floods, drought, public health pandemics, or famine.


inclusive employment

Individuals with disabilities working alongside workers without disabilities in the competitive labor market, with access to the same benefits and career opportunities.

informed decisions

To make choices that are based on all of the relevant facts and information, provided in formats accessible to the decision-maker.


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marketing assets

Any materials that are used to promote a business, product, program, or organization. Can include websites, videos, social media posts, advertisements, brochures, flyers or sell sheets, newsletters, slide decks, brand identity guides, instructions manuals, podcasts, and blog content.


multiply-marginalized people

People who experience discrimination based on more than one factor of their identity, an experience which includes discrimination unique to that intersection of two or more identities. For example, a Black disabled woman faces discrimination for being a woman, being Black, and being disabled, and she also experiences discrimination that is unique to Black disabled women.

Methods or formats


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physically accessible

Ensuring that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical/built environment.

plain language

A style of communication that prioritizes easy-to-read, concise, and clear information; particularly helpful for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Like many other universal design practices, plain language also benefits many non-disabled people to better understand the information provided.


Relating to the way that a program or service is developed and delivered.


Abbreviation for "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health disorder that is caused after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic life event, series of events or set of circumstances. For more information, please visit the following link.


qualitative research

Collecting and assessing non-numerical data, such as opinions, experiences, first-hand observation, interviews, surveys, focus groups, participant-observation, and case studies.


reasonable accommodations

Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified person with a disability to participate in the application process and perform essential job functions.

reasonable modifications

A reasonable modification is a change or exception to a policy, practice, or procedure that allows people with disabilities to have equal access to programs, services and activities.


The ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.

True resilience is only achievable with a full commitment to equal access and whole community inclusion.


Reunification is the process of ensuring that children return to the care of their parent(s) and family as quickly as possible after an emergency.


scaled analysis

A method to analyze data and identify which findings are most relevant and significant.

service providers

Individuals and community organizations that provide individualized supports to people with disabilities to meet the person’s daily needs and achieve the individual’s goals.


Providing a temporary facility intended to protect people who have had to leave their homes for safety. There are many different kinds of shelters, and they vary in how long they stay open to the public. In a disaster, sheltering often includes providing daily needs such as food, water, sanitation, a place to sleep, personal space, and essential services to ensure people remain safe and have their basic needs met.

shelter in place

The use of any building that provides protection from a specific risk or threat (such as a flood, hurricane, or tornado, for example). The structure and the length of time for sheltering-in-place will be determined by the location of the people at the time the threat happens, and the type of threat.

Sheltering-in-place is an alternative to evacuating and may be required or selected by individuals, families, employers, or groups of people based on perceived or known dangers.

stakeholder groups

Groups or populations of people who will be impacted by a decision.

standard operating procedures

A detailed set of instructions that explain the purpose of a task, how the task should be done, and who will do it.

subject matter expert

A person who has gained a lot of knowledge about a specific topic, area, or industry, and can be considered a trustworthy source of information about their area of expertise.

support agents

Support agents for a government agency or department are other departments or companies that do activities that are related or in-support-of each other.

Examples: two government departments who each have emergency plans such as public health and behavioral health, nonprofit and government departments that do the same or similar work such as health department and health providers, or community based organizations who do work that supports government agencies, such as public and private transportation providers.


The ability to continue something consistently over time. In the context of climate and societal sustainability, it can be understood as a form of inter-generational ethics in which the people currently making decisions ensure that their actions do not negatively impact the opportunities of people in the future to be able to live with comfort and safety.

social model of disability

Refers to systemic social barriers that lead to the exclusion of disabled people from society. This term refers to the restrictions caused by society when it does not give equitable social and structural support according to disabled peoples' structural needs. The social model of disability contrasts from the medical model of disability, which focuses on the barriers of disability from a medical standpoint. The term "social model of disability" was coined by British sociologist, author, and disability rights activist Mike Oliver.


talent acquisition pipeline

A process of hiring that includes everything from the creation of the job through on-boarding of the new hire

technical assistance

Detailed, expert help in order to overcome a barrier, achieve an outcome, or to progress on  a goal.

thought partner

An equal participant in working together to build a vision, problem-solve, and support shared goals.


Universal Design

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.

universal disability inclusion

Designing environments, products, and services to be accessible to a wide range of people with disabilities, by using the principles of universal design.

user experience (UX)

The entire interaction with a product or service, including how the person using it feels about the interaction. Includes how well the user can navigate the product, how easy it is to use, and how relevant the content is.

user experience testing (UX testing)

User experience testing, also known as usability testing or UX testing, is a process to check the usability of a product or service for different people who may use it.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

An educational structure designed to create flexible learning environments that support a wide variety of students and abilities.


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Whole Community approach

A holistic way to engage the full capacity of the private and nonprofit sectors, including businesses, faith-based and disability organizations, and the general public, together with the participation of local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal governmental partners.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Landmark US legislation that is designed to strengthen and improve the public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers, and to help employers hire and keep skilled workers.


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