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
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
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.
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
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
Major life activities are activities that could include caring for
oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing speaking, learning, breathing and
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
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
the Mentally Ill
Children and Adults with Attention
Learning Disability Association
National Depressive and
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.