Common Accessibility Terms

This page provides definitions of terms most often used when discussing accessibility and accommodations and the associated communities. If you have suggestions for any edits or additions, please reach out to AAA using the AAA Contact Form, option “Accessibility.”

The terms on these page are especially helpful when reviewing the Presentation Guidelines for Success & Accessibility or Virtual Presentation Accessibility Guidelines.

Access copies

individually printed and/or digital copies of presentation documents (i.e. PowerPoint slides without notes, prepared papers, outlines of presentation, etc.) available to audience members prior to a presentation for people to directly follow during the presentation


the commitment to an environment being initially designed so that the greatest number of people can participate without needing to later alter the space to meet individual needs

Access needs

an individual’s environmental, behavioral, physical, attitudinal, and other needs as related to accessibility and accommodations


individualized changes made to an environment after the initial design of a space upon a person’s request to meet their needs

Alt text

a brief textual explanation of an image, used in the coding of digital graphics online and in digital files


acronym for American Sign Language

Audio description

a vocal narration describing the visuals in videos and other multimedia products


a person who provides CART


Communication Access Realtime Translation, a system which converts spoken language into text in real time by using a specialized keyboard; can occur remotely or in person; often presented as captions in the moment

Closed captions

captions in a video that can be turned on and off by a viewer and include additional sounds beyond spoken language


read as “big-D Deaf and little-d deaf”, which indicates the difference between big-d Deaf people who identify as culturally deaf and as a linguistic minority through the use of ASL and little-d deaf people who identify as having an audiological or medical condition that leads to not hearing


individuals who have mild-to-moderate hearing loss, often occurring later in life, and may not associate with the culturally Deaf community

Image description

a detailed explanation of an image that provides textual access to visual content; most often used for digital graphics online and in digital files; can be used as alt text in coding to provide access to more complete information


a person who translates English to ASL and vice versa in the moment

Large print

print formatting that provides greater visibility for blind, low-vision and poor vision readers, which typically includes the body of text at a minimum of 18 pt font

Open captions

captions embedded into a video that can not be removed by a viewer and include additional sounds beyond spoken language

Screen reader

a device or program that reads aloud the visible and embedded text on a computer screen to blind or low vision users

Standard print

print formatting most frequently used on documents, which typically includes the body of text at 10, 12, or 14 pt font


a written version of all spoken language in a video without additional sounds and noises included


a written version of the spoken language and other sounds in a video or audio recording that can be reviewed independently from the recording; audio description tracks should also be included in transcripts

Visual description

a description of the visual context of a location, person, or space; may be provided in real time; also an umbrella term for image and audio descriptions