Glossary of Disability Terms
Below are the terms often used in the disability community.
deaf: Hearing loss so severe that communication and learning are primarily by visual methods. Members of the deaf community who communicate primarily using American Sign Language refer to themselves as Deaf.
deaf-blind: Significant combined loss/impairment of both senses (hearing and visual). People who are deaf-blind may have unique problems with communication, mobility and other daily living skills that make achieving independence more difficult.
deafness: Complete or partial loss of the sense of hearing. The loss may be present at birth or acquired, temporary or permanent. It may be caused by disease or injury to the auditory nerve.
developmental disability (DD) (As defined by North Carolina General Statute): North Carolina General Statute 122C-3(12a) defines a developmental disability as a severe, chronic disability of a person which is attributable to mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments; is manifested before the person attains age 22, unless the disability is caused by traumatic head injury and is manifested after age 22; is likely to continue indefinitely; results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: (a) self-care, (b) reception (understanding) and expressive language, (c) learning, (d) mobility (ability to move), (e) self-direction (motivation), (f) the capacity for independent living, (g) economic self-sufficiency; reflects the person’s need for a combination or sequence of special interdisciplinary services which are of a lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated; or when applied to children from birth through four years of age, may be evidenced as developmental delay.
developmental disability (DD) (As defined by federal law): (A) means a severe, chronic disability of an individual that— (i) is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments; (ii) is manifested before the individual attains age 22; (iii) is likely to continue indefinitely; (iv) results in substantial functional limitations in 3 or more of the following areas of major life activity: (I) Self-care. (II) Receptive and expressive language. (III) Learning. (IV) Mobility. (V) Self-direction. (VI) Capacity for independent living. (VII) Economic self-sufficiency; and (v) reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of lifelong or extended duration.
down syndrome: A genetic condition caused by a chromosomal abnormality. Atypical cell development results in 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46 chromosomes. As a result, there is some degree of cognitive disability and other developmental delays. Common physical features of Down syndrome include small stature, decreased muscle tone, flattened bridge of the nose and upward slant to the eyes.
epilepsy: A physical condition that occurs when there is a sudden, brief change in the brain. This abnormal electrical activity in the brain can cause a person’s consciousness, movement, or actions to be altered for a short time—called an epileptic seizure. Epilepsy is also called a seizure disorder.
fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS): A combination of physical and mental disabilities which develops in babies before birth when the mother drinks a substantial amount of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
handicap: Physical and social barriers that put people with disabilities at a disadvantage and hinder their ability to fully participate in the community. A person with a disability is not “handicapped” but may be limited by attitudinal, physical, and other barriers that society fails to remove.
hard of hearing: Hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound, that can benefit from the use of hearing aids or other assistive listening devices and depends primarily upon spoken or written communication.
hearing impaired: Refers to all people with hearing loss regardless of severity of loss, age at onset, communication methods, use of technology or socio-cultural factors.
hearing impairment: Loss of auditory functioning, ranging from hard of hearing to deaf.