Below is a list of terms that we often use when we talk about digital accessibility.


The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a US labor law that prohibits unjustified discrimination based on disability.


The measure of a web page’s usability by persons with one or more disabilities.


Software designed to perform, or to help the user to perform, a specific task or tasks.

Assistive technologies

Technologies (software or hardware) that increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities when interacting with computers or computer-based systems.


Accessible Rich Internet Applications. This technical specification is used to increase the accessibility of web pages. 

Audio Description

Some refer to the audio description as ‘audible alt text’ because its function is to convey audible information that is not stated/obvious/clear to blind users or users with low vision. Audio description can be added to video presentations.


Review of your institution’s existing software, electronic platforms and media (digital and otherwise) to determine whether they are up to current standards for digital accessibility. 

Automated Testing

Accessibility testing can be done with software programs or apps that automatically review the code used to build web pages (among other templates) to look for some kinds of accessibility errors. All automated tool outputs should also be manually checked.


Closed captioning (CC) and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information. 


The use of color can influence the accessibility of content. Is all information that is conveyed with color also available without color? 


The visual presentation of text and images must follow guidelines to ensure that people with difficulty distinguishing color (i.e., color blind) are still able to access and comprehend the materials. 


A style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language. 

Decorative Image

An image in a web page that does not add information or supplement the learning experience. The image is used for aesthetic reasons only and does not require an alt text description.


A limitation in an ability


Elements on the page can be difficult to access if color and/or contrast is used as the sole indicator of a learning element, link, etc. and pertains to screen reader content 

Focus Indicators

The basic focus indicator is provided by web browsers and is typically shown as an outline around the focused element. 


These provide structure to a page and allow the user of assistive technology, such as screen readers, an easier, more intuitive environment to navigate. 

Keyboard Navigation

users can access and move between links, buttons, forms, and other controls using the Tab key and other keystrokes. 


Labeling controls are created to help the user identify form controls–buttons, drop-down menus, text fields.

 Long Descriptions

Descriptions that are written for complex figures and tagged via the long desc attribute.

Manual Testing

Testing process to evaluate whether materials meet the accessibility requirements, such as looking over an alt text description to ensure that the content matches the materials 


A set of selectable options. 


Component of functionality in which functionality is made available from a keyboard and that helps users navigate and find content. 


Content is presented in a way, or multiple ways, without losing meaning. Users should be able to perceive information with at least one of their senses.


Users must be able to access the content even as technologies advance and evolve.

Screen reader

A software program used to allow reading of content and navigation of the screen using speech or Braille output. Used primarily by people who have difficulty seeing. JAWS and NVDA are examples. 

Section 508 (of the Rehab Act)

It was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage the development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. § 794d), Federal Agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. 

Semantic Markup

The use of HTML markup to reinforce the semantics, or meaning, of the information in webpages and web applications rather than merely to define its presentation or look. For example, tagging first-level headlines as “h1” rather than merely making the font size larger or the typeface bold would be considered semantically correct. Semantic HTML is processed by traditional web browsers as well as by many other user agents.

Synchronized Closed Captioning

The closed captioning for a video/presentation must be synchronized with the content of the video/presentation. 

Text Alternatives

Or “alt text,” refers to the description written for images, in an attempt to convey the essential information that the image conveys.


A text-only version of what’s said in a movie or television program. They are not real time and they are generally limited to speech only. They are not a recommended substitute for captions.


The user must be able to understand the information being presented, as well as the operation of the user interface.

Visual Focus

Where the user’s focus is on a Web page. They are generally represented by a dashed box that appears around items on the page and associated with tabbing.

WCAG 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is focused on providing an international technical standard for web content. It has 12 guidelines that are organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The guidelines each have a testable success criteria, which are at three levels of compliance: A, which is the minimum; AA, which is the standard; and AAA, which is the highest.

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