Project Opportunity and Access


Accessible - Easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability (ie., site, facility, work environment, service or program) (President's Commission on Employment of Persons with Disabilities [PCEPD}, 1994).

Accommodation Letter - The letter a student with a disability receives from the Office for Disability Services (ODS) to give to a faculty member regarding needed accommodations in class.

Accommodation– Any change in the academic, work or campus environment; Any change in the way things are customarily done; and Changes that permits qualified persons with a disability to enjoy equal educational opportunities.

Affirmative Action - Positive action to accomplish the purposes of a program which is designed to increase employment opportunities of certain groups, which may involve goals, timetables, or specifically outlined steps undertaken to assure that objectives are reached. The ADA does not mandate affirmative action for persons with disabilities, but it does require that covered entities ensure nondiscrimination. The 1973 Rehabilitation Act does require that affirmative action be taken in employment considerations of persons with disabilities by federal contractors (PCEPD, 1994).

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 - The most comprehensive civil rights legislation passed for persons with disabilities. This law is designed to end discrimination against people with disabilities as it applies to employment, public transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications.

Architectural Accessibility - Issues that concern the physical accessibility of buildings, sidewalks, entryways, bathrooms, elevators, and water fountains for persons with disabilities.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurobiological disability that interferes with a person’s ability to sustain attention or focus on a task and to delay impulsive behavior. It is characterized by attention skills that are developmentally inappropriate where persons respond in a hyperactive and/or impulsive manner.

Auxiliary Aids and Services - Devices or services that accommodate a functional limitation of a person with a communication disability. The term includes qualified interpreters and communication devices for persons who are hearing impaired or deaf; qualified readers, taped texts, Braille or other devices for persons with visual impairments; adaptive equipment or similar services and actions for persons with other communication disabilities (PCEPD, 1994).

Braille – A method of reading for persons with visual impairments that uses patterns of raised dots to represent letters and/or words. Braille is a tactile method of reading using one's fingertips.

Cerebral Palsy - A disability that occurs as a result of a brain injury that may have occurred before, during, or shortly after birth. The injury results in disorders of posture or movements. Manifestations may include involuntary muscle control, contractions, rigidity, spasms, poor coordination, balance or spatial relations. Visual, auditory, speech, hand function, convulsive disorders and mobility problems may be present.

Closed Captioning - The scripted text of video, movies, television, and stage presentation.

Disability – "Any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; any individual who has a record of such an impairment; and any individual who is regarded as having such an impairment." (ADA, 1990).

Dyslexia – An inability to understand written words.

Distance Learning – Courses offered via independent study or web based to anyone, around the world.

Essential Functions - Refers to job duties of the employment position that the person with a disability holds or desires. The term "essential functions" does not include marginal functions of the position (PCEPD, 1994). Within the scope of the ADA, essential functions of the job are those "basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation" (U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC], 1991, p. 3). Evidence whether a particular function is essential is based on a number of sources including, but not limited to: an employer's judgment, written job descriptions, amount of time performing the function, collective bargaining agreements, work experience of past and/or present employees in similar jobs (Blackwell & Conrad, 1992).

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) - Nondiscrimination in hiring, firing, compensation, promotion, recruitment, training, and other terms and conditions of employment regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin or disability (PCEPD, 1994).

Fundamental Alteration - When the accommodation made to a persons with a disability changes the desired outcome(s) of the course, job, and/or position, it is considered a fundamental alteration, and, if proven as such, the accommodation does not have to be provided.

Hearing Impairments – Hearing Impaired/Deaf - There are varying degrees of hearing impairments ranging from a mild hearing loss to complete deafness. Some people with hearing impairments wear hearing aids, others do not. In addition, there are various modes of communication based on each person. Communication methods include speech, sign language (e.g., American Sign Language), and cued speech.

HIV-AIDS - HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a manifest in a spectrum of conditions that eventually culminates in the development of severe immune competency that threatens quality of life and survival. The most advanced phase is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS (Keeling, 1993).

Interpreter – A person who translates verbal language into sign language for persons with hearing impairments.

Learning Disabilities - The term learning disability (LD) is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span.

Long-term Mental Illness - Mental illnesses are brain disorders that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, moods, and ability to relate to others. They result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life; they are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 1999).

Major Life Activity - Basic activities that the "average person" could perform with little or no difficulty, including caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Motor/Mobility Impairments - These impairments refer to a partial or total loss of physical functioning usually associated with one's arms and/or legs. This loss of function may result in muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or paralysis.

Narcolepsy - A sleep disorder that manifests in recurrent attacks of sleep, sudden loss of muscle tone and sleep paralysis.

Notetaker – A person who takes notes in a class and provides a copy of those notes to the person with a disability who needs such an accommodation.

Office for Disability Services (ODS) - The Penn State office that ensures system-wide access to the University’s programs, services, and activities to all qualified individuals regardless of disabilities (ODS, 1997-98)

Office for Civil Rights (OCR) - External entity that reviews civil rights complaints.

Orthopedic Impairment – A general term that refers to disabilities that involve skeletal deformities (bones and connective tissue) caused by birth or acquired via disease and/or accidents. Examples of musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders include degenerative joint disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other Health-Related Disability – A disability category term used for Penn State data collection purposes that refers to a broad range of disabilities that involve medical treatment (e.g., asthma, cancer, kidney dialysis).

Paraplegia – An injury to the spinal cord that results in paralysis of the legs and trunk.

Personal Care Attendant – A person hired by and paid by the person with the disability who provides assistance for bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and related activities.

Physical Disability - The partial or total loss of function of a body part, usually a limb or limbs. This may result in muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or paralysis.

Public Accommodation – Accommodations in public businesses such as museums, hotels, professional offices, restaurants, schools, sport complexes, and theaters that offer people with disabilities equal access to public services.

Psychological Disabilities - A category used to describe a wide range of disorders such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. Depression and anxiety are among the most common psychological impairments of college students with disabilities.

Quadriplegia – An injury to the spinal cord at the cervical level that results in paralysis of both upper (arms) and lower (legs) extremities. Depending on the level of injury persons with quadriplegia may need support for breathing, self-care, feeding, dressing, and propelling a wheelchair (Falvo, 1999).

Qualified Individual with a Disability - An individual with a disability who satisfies the qualifications for an employment position such individual holds or desires, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position (PCEPD, 1994).

Respiratory Disorders - Refers to a group of disabilities that involve chronic breathing problems such as asthma and emphysema. Respiratory problems are characterized by attacks of shortness of breath and difficulty breathing sometimes triggered by stress, fatigue, and physical exertion.

Reasonable Accommodation - An effort made to assist a student and/or employee that allows participation in a public service, program, and or employment opportunity. Examples of reasonable accommodations include: (1) Modification or adjustment to a job application process that enables a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position he/she desires; or (2) modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enables qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of that position; or (3) modifications or adjustments that enable the employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by other similarly situated employees without disabilities (PCEPD, 1994).

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – This law was the first anti-discrimination law for persons with disabilities. The law prohibited discrimination in any program or activity that received federal funds that exceeded $2,500. It also required affirmative-action plans for hiring and promoting qualified persons with disabilities. • Section 504 - Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program and activity that is offered by an entity or institution that receives financial assistance from the federal government. Within this Section, Subpart E specifically deals with the regulations required of postsecondary institutions.

Seizure disorders - Abnormal electrical brain discharges that result in a temporary loss of control over certain body functions that include confusion, incontinence, loss of consciousness, and muscle spasms that last for short periods of time.

Speech Impairments - A general category used to describe problems speaking that may be developmental in nature (e.g., stuttering), and/or occur as a result of illness (e.g., stroke) or injury (e.g., head trauma). Speech impairments range from difficulties with articulation or vocal quality to being totally nonverbal.

Telecommunication Devices for Deaf Persons (TDD) – Typing devices that are used to transmit conversations over regular telephone lines. Persons on both ends of the telephone line have compatible typing devices that allow their messages to be printed on a screen or on paper (Falvo, 1991).

Title I: Employment - A title under the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotion, and firing of qualified persons with disabilities. Consequently, job applicants and employees with disabilities who work in postsecondary settings would be covered.

Title II: Public Services - A title under the Americans with Disabilities Act that mandates that any State or local government or any department, agency or other instrumentality of a State shall not be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity (e.g., colleges and universities). This title also sets standards for increasing accessible transportation such as bus and train services. Under this title postsecondary institutions receiving state or federal funding would be obligated to offer educational programs in accessible buildings and offer related accessible services (e.g., classroom instruction, residence life, food service, parking).

Title III: Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities - A title under the Americans with Disabilities Act that provides that individuals with disabilities shall benefit from full and equal enjoyment of all goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include museums, hotels, professional offices, restaurants, schools, sport complexes, and theaters.

Title IV: Telecommunications - A title under the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires that inter- and intrastate telecommunications relay services are available to hearing-impaired and speech-impaired persons that will result in greater access in using communication devices. For example, individuals who are deaf must have access to telecommunication devices for Deaf persons (TDD). Television programs that are funded through the federal government must include closed captioning of the verbal content.

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions - A title under the Americans with Disabilities Act that includes a variety of provisions such as further delineating who is not covered under the ADA, reaffirming that a person with a disability is not required to accept an accommodation if that person chooses not to do so, and providing technical assistance to help all persons understand their legal responsibilities as contained in the ADA. Also may be manifested alone or in combination with other disabilities.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - An injury to the brain that occurs from an external physical force. TBI does not occur as a result of a disease process or one acquired at birth (Falvo, 1991).

Undue Hardship - Refers to an action requiring significant difficulty or expense, when considered in light of certain factors such as the nature and cost of the accommodation in relationship to the size, financial resources, type of employment situation (PCEPD, 1994). This consideration is an important consideration in determining whether a reasonable accommodation is implemented or not.

Visual Impairments - Visual impairments refer to the ability to process visual detail. They can range from blindness (a total lack of light perception) to problems with one's visual field (e.g., tunnel vision - the ability to see images in the center of the visual field but not the periphery) (Falvo, 1991).

Vocational Rehabilitation - Programs designed to assist individual with disabilities to enter or reenter gainful employment (PCEPD, 1994).