A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n Report on the Section 504 Self-Evaluation - May 1996

Appendix E

Glossary of Selected Terms


The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is a basic computer language that assigns numbers to characters. This language can be read by almost every computer.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

An ALD is a device that picks up sounds (voice, music, etc.) at, or close to its source, amplifies it and delivers it to the user's ear. An ALD has advantages over conventional amplification systems. Because the signal to be listened to is the primary sound picked up by the ALD system and transmitted to the user's ear, the individual's perception of sound or speech is significantly improved. ALDs can improve interpersonal communication in a variety of listening situations including meetings and other forms of public assembly for individuals with hearing impairments.

A. Audio Loop System

In an audio loop system, a type of ALD, a loop of wire is placed around a seating area and connected to the public address system or an amplifier if a PA system is not available. Individuals with hearing impairments who are wearing a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil or who are using a portable loop receiver are seated within the audio loop. An electrical current flowing through the loop creates a magnetic sound field that is picked up by the induction wire in the receiver/hearing aid. The hearing aid or the portable receiver both have volume control capability so that the sound level can be controlled by the person using the audio loop.

B. Infrared Systems

In an infrared system, a type of ALD, an infrared light emitter is connected to a public address system or its own amplifier and the sound going into the microphones is converted into invisible infrared light beams which are sent out by the emitter, carrying the sound to infrared receivers worn by the listener. The receiver converts the light beams back into sound and contains a volume control so the listener can adjust the loudness of the sound while receiving the beam through a headset, ear plug or personal neck loop connected to the receiver.

C. FM and AM Radio Systems

Certain frequencies within the range of FM and AM radio signal transmission have been set aside by the Federal Communications Commission for the specific use of enhancing communication for persons with hearing impairments who can benefit from FM or AM radio transmitted speech or sound signals. This signal is picked up by microphones, goes through an FM or AM transmitter, which may or may not be plugged into a public address system, sent out to a portable receiver tuned to the same radio frequency. Receivers resemble a small pocket radio connected by a cord to headphones or an earplug. An individual neckloop can also be plugged into the receiver to be used by persons with a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil.

D. Hard Wired Systems

This is often the simplest and least expensive option for enhancing receptive communication capability for persons with hearing impairments, but it can also be the most difficult to use. Sound input through microphones to an amplifier (possibly a part of an existing PA system), travels via wire to a plug-in receptacle where a headset, ear plug or individual neck loop can be connected to receive the signal. Hard-wire systems in facilities such as churches can have an elaborate network of wires installed permanently, or they can consist of a small microphone, short wire and a headset used between two people sitting in a car. Tangled or loose wires can be bothersome and dangerous if not used carefully.

Audio Description

Audio description is a verbal depiction of a visual event for persons with visual impairments. In short, it is "the art of talking pictorially." An audio describer acts as a verbal camera lens serving as the eyes for a low vision or blind individual. To make the arts accessible to persons with visual impairments the audio describer verbally recreates colors, settings, costumes, physical characteristics and body language. A person with visual impairments can then gain a fuller appreciation of a live theater production, art exhibit, movie or videotape. Audio description has been most widely used in the live theater but, it is also currently being used on film soundtracks on a limited basis and efforts are underway to develop descriptive videotape services. Audio description for television is also being developed and may soon be available to the same extent that closed captioning for television is now available for viewers with hearing impairments. Stereo television sets are already equipped to handle audio description. A stereo television has a secondary audio programming channel allocated by the Federal Communication Commission for foreign language translation or audio description. Non-stereo television owners can purchase adaptive equipment for $100 - $200 that allows the audio description to be received or can use a stereo VCR as a receiver to receive audio description on a non-stereo television without an adapter.


Braille refers to a tactile reading and writing system, in the forms of

Braille Embosser

A Braille embosser is a printer that produces Braille text.

Braille Signs

Braille signs have Braille representations of a printed sign, for instance room numbers or office titles.

Captioning for Television and Video Tapes/Movies

Captioning in general refers to the process in which the audio portion of a TV program or video tape is converted into printed words or description to be read by persons unable to hear or understand these sounds or words. Most TV programs are pre-recorded and these are captioned in the same way as video tape movies, training and education productions - after the program has been recorded. On the other hand, live broadcasts, such as news and sporting events, need to utilize what is called "real-time captioning", a much more difficult process in terms of accurately reporting what has been said. Captioning is available in two primary modes - open or closed.

Computer Assisted Notetaking (CAN)

CAN is the use of computer technology to provide live notes during a meeting or lecture. A typist types as much as possible of the spoken content of the meeting/class on a computer keyboard and those notes are displayed on a monitor and can be projected onto a larger screen or wall. Depending on the skill of the typist, the computer software used, and the speed of the speech or dialogue, the output by the typist can vary from summary notes to near-verbatim captions. Since less equipment and training/skills are used in CAN sessions, these are considerably less expensive than the CART services, while the CART services are much more desirable by consumers due to the greater information they offer.

Computer Aided Real-time Transcription (CART)

CART is a service, much in the same way that interpreting is a service, facilitating communication between persons who use speech to express themselves and persons unable to fully understand spoken language due to significant hearing loss. A CART reporter types phonetic shorthand outlines onto the keyboard of a 24-key stenograph machine connected to a computer. The shorthand outlines are sent from the stenotype machine to the computer, equipped with a shorthand dictionary and a special software program which translates the outlines, with less than a one-second delay, into English text and displays this text onto a computer monitor. Additional technology such as display panels and overhead projectors allows the text to be read by many persons at the same time. This is the same technology and service used to provide real-time captioning for live television programs such as news and sports events. CART allows a person with hearing impairments to read the verbatim proceedings of a meeting or class in "real-time" and thus become and active participant. The information entered by the reporter can also be saved on a disk and printed out for use as notes or a record of meeting activities.

Federal Information Relay Services (FIRS)

FIRS acts as an intermediary between individuals with hearing or speech impairments who must use a TTY to communicate via telephone and persons who do not need to use a TTY. This service is available between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 8:00 P.M. Eastern Time, M - F, except for Federal Government holidays. To use the FIRS, call 1-800-877-8339. If making a local call it is best to use the local relay service (that number should be readily available in the local phone directory). For more information on relay communications or to obtain a FIRS brochure, please call 1-800-877-0996 (Voice or TTY).

Interpreter/Transliterator Services

Interpreter/transliterator services are services whereby a trained and qualified individual interprets or transliterates the communication between one or more deaf or hard of hearing individuals and one or more individuals who are using spoken language and are not proficient in the use of manual communication, cued speech or other communication options that would resolve communication difficulties. The interpreter/transliterator interprets all spoken and auditory information into sign language (or other visual communication mode) and all signed information into spoken English. The interpreter/transliterator uses the communication mode preferred by the deaf or hard of hearing individual(s), and these modes include: American Sign Language (ASL), Pidgin Sign English (PSE), one or more forms of Manually Coded English (MCE), Cued Speech, Oral (speechreading enhancement), or Tactile (for persons who are Deaf-Blind).

Pictorial Signage

Pictorial signage refers to signs with pictures, rather than text, that convey the information the sign is designed to convey. These signs are especially useful for people with cognitive disabilities.

Oral Description

Oral description, or descriptive video, is verbal description by a sighted person of actions, settings and other visual stimuli for the benefits of persons with visual impairments.

Telecommunications Devices/Services for Individuals with Hearing Impairments

Telephone Amplification Devices

A. Hearing Aid Telecoils

Generally speaking, hearing aids amplify sound picked up by the microphone of the aid. Behind-the-ear and in-the-ear hearing aids can be fitted to pick up electromagnetic signals by inserting an induction coil in the aid. This coil is also known as a "telecoil", "T-coil" or T-switch. In order for the hearing aid telecoil to work with a telephone, the telephone must emit or leak a sufficiently strong electromagnetic field. With the proper telephone and a good T-coil, background noise can be greatly reduced and the quality of the sound coming through the phone will be enhanced considerably. Likewise, the T-coil can be used with assistive listening devices, allowing the hearing aid to magnify the benefits of technology such as audio loops, infra-red and FM systems.

B. Telephone Adapter

A portable telephone adapter helps make phones with little or no electro-magnetic field become usable for hearing aid T-coil users by converting the acoustic sound to a stronger electro-magnetic field which connects with the T-coil in the hearing aid. The telephone adapter is made especially for hearing aid users whose aids have a telephone switch but they also amplify sound coming through the handset for persons who do not have a hearing aid with a T-coil. An elastic strap easily attaches the adapter to the telephone receiver and it is powered by batteries.

C. Amplification Devices

1. Handset Amplifiers

Pay telephones and regular desk top telephones can be equipped with a handset that contains a volume control. This feature can amplify the voice signal coming over the telephone by as much as 30%.

2. Portable Amplifiers

Any telephone can be temporarily equipped with a portable amplification device that straps onto the earpiece of the telephone handset.

3. Permanent Amplifiers

Telephones can also be permanently equipped with desk top amplifiers and speakers to assist people with hearing impairments who use the phone. Assistive listening devices can also be used to adapt regular telephones, enhancing the signal or allowing an individual to use both ears in receiving the voice signal.

Visual/Tactile Alarms and Alerting Devices

Sound is often used to inform people of events that they should be aware of for their safety or well-being. Sirens, fire alarms, honking horns are for the former and clock-radios, bells and whistles on everyday appliances and telephones come with the latter. Devices that take the place of these sounds by providing light or tactile signals are used by persons with hearing impairments and those with both visual and hearing impairments. Systems are available that can inform these individuals via flashing lights or vibrating pagers that their baby is crying in the bedroom or that the phone is ringing when they are out in the yard mowing the grass or that it is time to get up and go to work. Technology options in this area are vast and should be explored as alternatives.
[Appendix D: Policy Statement on Making Materials and Information Available and Accessible to Individuals with Disabilities] [Table of Contents] [Appendix F: Public Comments]