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     Disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual, having a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.  This is the same definition included in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act Amendments,and the Air Carrier Access Act.

     There are many kinds and degrees of disabilities. It is very important for all students to be aware of their strengths and  weaknesses and how they learn best. This is part of self-advocacy which means being able to speak and act for yourself, explain your own needs and desires, and to ask for accommodations if necessary.   Accommodations are modifications made in a student's academic  program because of a student's disability  which will help the student achieve academic success.    The following is a  list a few definitions of different disabilities and terms that are frequently used that impact students with disabilities.  For more information, please check on the Internet or with some of the resources listed on the Rhode Island and United States Resource pages.

Definitions of various disabilities
(These definitions may vary according to different sources.    This list is not inclusive of all disabilities.)

Attention Deficit Disorder is a neuro-biological disorder which causes problems in attention, distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Dyscalculia is the inability to understand or use mathematical symbols or functions.

Dysgraphia is an inability to write legibly.

Dyslexia is an impairment of the ability to read.

Learning disabilities are disorders in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, which manifest itself is an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Related definitions

Auditory discrimination is the ability to hear similarities and differences in words.

Auditory memory is the ability to remember sounds, symbols and words.

Auditory perception is the ability to interpret and understand what is heard.

Distractibility is the measure of  attention to other sounds, sights, and stimuli that occur in the environment, rather than the task.

Due process is the application of laws to make sure that an individual's rights are being protected.

Expressive language is the ability to communicate through writing or speaking.

Major life activities are activities that could include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing speaking, learning, breathing and working.

Reasonable accommodations are academic adjustments to ensure that students with disabilities receive an equal opportunity to participate.

Screening is an assessment to determine if a student needs special services.

Self -advocacy is the ability to effectively describe your disabilities and accommodation needs.

Self-assessment is the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Social perception is an ability to detect, understand, and comprehend social situations and body clues.

Undue hardship means that colleges and universities are not required to provide accommodations that would cause undue financial burdens.

Links to Web pages about  Disabilities 

Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder

Learning Disability Association

National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association

Oppositional-Defiant Disorder

Tourette Syndrome

The Beach Center (University of Kansas) for Families and Disability provides education and training materials  parent training and professional support.   They focus on family empowerment.


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flag.gif (12532 bytes) This Web site was created by Karen Shabshelowitz as partial fulfillment for the degree of Master of Arts in Education at the University of Rhode Island.
         Disclaimer:   The author of this Web page is not responsible for the accuracy or timeliness of the material on this Web page. It is meant to provide general information but this information may not be true or accurate in all cases.  This information is provided as a public service.   If you have questions or doubts about the information, please consult the school administrators, some of the resources listed, and /or legal counsel. Thank you.