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People First Glossary

Below is a list of commonly accepted terms to be used in conjunction with People First language. This reference is drawn from a variety of credible sources such as subject-matter experts, state and federal law or other current publications.


Buildings, structures, programs, transportation services, public services, etc. that are designed or modified to enable people with disabilities to use them without undue difficulty and that conform to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Examples include ramps for entering and exiting buildings, TTY relay services for telephone use, lifts on public transportation, personal assistance, and documents in Braille, large print, CD, etc.

Adult Basic Education

A program offered by community colleges for adults who have not completed an eighth-grade education in the public schools. The objectives of the program are increasing basic skills in reading, writing and computation, with an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills.

Adult Developmental Vocational Program (ADVP)

Activities designed to prepare adults with developmental disabilities to live and work as independently as possible.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

A federal law providing comprehensive civil rights protections for individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. See also the relevant Federal Civil Rights Law section for a brief discussion of the ADA.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

A professional field that uses principles of leaning to increase performance of socially desirable behaviors. It always relies upon the collection of objective data to measure performance and the effectiveness of an intervention.

Architectural Barrier

Any physical structure that prevents persons with disabilities from having normal or easy access to a location.


Is an anti-poverty strategy that helps low-income people move toward greater self-sufficiency by accumulating savings and purchasing long-term assets.

Assistive Technology (AT)

The use of technology to meet the needs of people with disabilities in all areas of life: education, employment, transportation and community living activities.

Assistive Technology Device

The term ‘‘assistive technology device’’ means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with developmental disabilities. (114 STAT. 1682 PUBLIC LAW 106–402—OCT. 30, 2000) Examples of assistive technology devices include computerized communication boards, automated readers, augmentative communication devices; toys with adapted switches, modified household gadgets; wheelchairs and computer-based devices that give enhanced images to people with vision loss or that translate voice input into writing for people with hearing loss or deafness.

Assistive Technology Service

The term ‘‘assistive technology service’’ means any service that directly assists an individual with a developmental disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes— (A) conducting an evaluation of the needs of an individual with a developmental disability, including a functional evaluation of the individual in the individual’s customary environment;(B) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of an assistive technology device by an individual with a developmental disability; (C) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or replacing an assistive technology device; (D) coordinating and using another therapy, intervention, or service with an assistive technology device, such as a therapy, intervention, or service associated with an education or rehabilitation plan or program; (E) providing training or technical assistance for an individual with a developmental disability, or, where appropriate, a family member, guardian, advocate, or authorized representative of an individual with a developmental disability; and (F) providing training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of, an individual with developmental disabilities. (114 STAT. 1682 PUBLIC LAW 106–402—OCT. 30, 2000)

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Any device, system, or method (other than natural speech) that improves or enhances a person’s ability to communicate. This includes sign language, letter boards, speech-generating devices, computer software, etc.

Barrier Free

Refers to a building or area that is fully accessible to persons with mobility limitations. The term may be used more generally to refer to activities that are readily accessed by persons with any type of disability.

Care Line

The Care Line is the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ (NCDHHS) toll-free information and referral telephone service. Specialists provide information and referrals regarding human services in government and non-profit agencies.

Case Management Services

Assistance provided to persons in gaining access to needed social, medical, vocational and educational services and supports. See also service coordination and targeted case management.

Centers for Independent Living (CILs)

CILs are community-based, not-for-profit, non-residential organizations that provide advocacy, peer counseling, independent living skills training, and information and referral to persons of any age with any disability.

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North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001NCSCDD-02, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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