safety alertalert exclamation

If you are in danger, please use a safer computer, call 911 or your local hotline or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233 voice), 1-800-787-3224 (tty). There is always a computer trail, but you can click ESCAPE to leave the site quickly.




Terms are interpreted slightly differently throughout the field. Commonly held definitions for terms are identified in this glossary.

Search the terms by selecting a letter:


abuser: Someone who carries out the tactics of domestic violence. Also referred to as a batterer.

accessible: Easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability.

accommodation: Modifications or adjustments to a program, work environment, or job description that make it easier for a person with a disability to participate in the same manner as other people.

accountability: The quality or state of being responsible; willing to accept responsibility of one’s obligations.

actualize: To make real; bring into existence.

adaptive equipment: Equipment that someone with a disability or functional limitation will use to adapt to the environment in which they live or work. Adaptive equipment could be a wheelchair, cane, electronic equipment, or other assistive devices.

adolescence: A stage of development from puberty to maturity.

advocacy: Intervening on behalf of, or representing, another person or cause.

American Sign Language (ASL): A manual or visual language in which information is expressed through combinations of handshapes, palm orientations, facial expressions, and movements of the hands, arms, and body. ASL is a complete language with its own grammar and syntax, separate from the English language.

American Sign Language interpreter (ASLI): An individual professionally trained in translating between a spoken language and American Sign Language (ASL). In other words, this person interprets what is being said into ASL for someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing.

anecdotal evidence: An informal account of something based on stories or experience. The term is often used in contrast to scientific evidence which is a kind of formal research.

Arthritis: A specific condition that results in the inflammation of joints.

assault: An action, threat or attempt to hurt another individual. It can be physical, verbal, or physical in nature.

auditory/oral: A communication method used by some Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in which listening is the primary means of understanding language and speech is the primary means of expressing language. In addition to listening (through the use of assistive technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants), individuals watch the speaker for additional information from speech reading, facial expression, and gesture.

autonomous decisions: A decision that does not affect the whole group, but only the decision-maker, and can be made by that sole party.

autonomy: A person’s ability to make independent choices; self reliance.



barrier: Something that blocks, prevents or hinders movement, action or passage.

benchmark: A point of reference from which a measurement can be made; something that serves as a standard by which other things are measured or judged.

blog: A website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and links to other writers or projects.

burden of proof: The requirement that both sides in a case provide the required amount of evidence. Includes by preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing proof, and by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.



caregiver: A person who provides direct service care to another, both formally, such as a hired Personal Care Attendant, or informally, such as an unpaid family member or friend. The term is often used to denote a person who specifically provides care for the young, the elderly, or people with disabilities.

Certified Deaf interpreter (CDI): An individual who is Deaf or hard of hearing and is certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf as an interpreter. In addition to proficient communication skill and interpreter training, the CDI has knowledge and understanding of Deaf culture and community as well as language fluency to help enhance communication. In a team situation with hearing interpreters, the CDI translates message content between a deaf consumer and a hearing interpreter; the hearing interpreter transmits message content between a deaf consumer and a hearing interpreter; and the hearing interpreter transmits message content between the CDI and a hearing consumer. The CDI is able to identify linguistic subtleties and nuances embedded in the communication of a Deaf individual.

childhood: The early period of development, from birth to puberty.

close-ended question: Questions that can be answered finitely by either “yes” and “no;” can include presuming, probing, restrictive or leading questions.

closed captioning: A service that allows for people who can not hear the audio programming portion of a television show or movie, to read it by putting the words on the screen. Closed captioning provides a link to news, entertainment, and information and can also be formatted in different languages. Most TVs can turn on closed captions through the remote control or an on-screen menu.

CODA: This acronym stands for "child of deaf adult," and is used to describe hearing children of deaf adult(s).

collaboration: According to the Fieldstone Alliance, collaboration is "a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve results they are more likely to achieve together than alone.” This relationship includes commitment to mutual relationships and goals; a jointly developed structure and shared responsibility; mutual authority and accountability for success; and sharing of resources and awards.

collective identity: A strong sense of belonging to a group that shares similar experiences or motivations; stronger than community ties or singular identity.

confidentiality: The ethical principle and legal right that a professional will hold all information relating to a client in confidence, unless the client gives consent permitting disclosure or unless disclosure is required by the law.

congenital abnormalities: A broad category including birth defects, genetic diseases and malformations that are present at birth; can be a result of genetics, environment or other unknown factors.

consensus: General agreement among the members of a group or community, each party of which has an equal right and responsibility to decision-making and follow-up action.

core competency: An area of specialized knowledge that is a result of collective efforts of education, technology and work activity.

cued speech: A communication method used by some Deaf and hard of hearing individuals that is designed to make visually available all the elements needed to understand spoken English. It combines information that can be seen through watching lip movements with information from additional hand shapes and hand positions near the face, used to identify sounds that can't be seen on the lips or that look the same on the lips.

cultural competency: The ability of certain people of one culture (often a dominant one) to acknowledge and consider the needs and interests of other cultures.

culture: The values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, and institutions that a group of people, who are unified by race, ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion, share; the way of life shared by the members of a group.

cyberstalking: Threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other devices or forms of technology. Cyberstalkers target their victims by making threatening or obscene e-mails or text messaging, hiding cameras, spamming, tracking computers and internet activity, tracking movement through GPS in cell phones, and in numerous other ways.



deaf: Individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. The lowercase "d" reflects a physical or audiological perspective.

Deaf: Individuals who identify with and participate in the language, culture and community of Deaf people, based on sign language. The capital "D" reflects this socio-cultural point of view.

Deaf-blind: Individuals who have lost varying degrees of their hearing and sight.

Deafhood: According to Paddy Ladd, who coined the term, Deafhood is "the process of defining the existential state of Deaf 'being-in-the-world.' Deafhood is not seen as a finite state but as a process by which Deaf individuals come to actualize their Deaf identity, positing that those individuals construct that identity around several differently ordered sets of priorities and principles, which are affected by various factors such as nation, era and class."

deafness: A term that is used to describe hearing loss from a medical perspective.

democratic decisions: Decisions that are settled by vote and require a majority of voters' support.

depression: Depression is a common mental disorder marked by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. It occurs in people of all genders, ages and backgrounds.

developmental disabilities: According to the CDC, developmental disabilities are a diverse group of severe chronic conditions that are due to mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities have problems with major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Developmental disabilities begin anytime during development up to 22 years of age, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.

dichotomy: A division into two, especially exclusive or contradictory groups or entities.

disability: Disability is not something that a person has but, instead, something that occurs outside of the person—the person has a functional limitation. Disability occurs in the interaction between a person, his or her functional ability, and the environment.

disclosure: The act of sharing personal information which might, under other circumstances, be kept secret.

discrimination: The act or practice of categorically judging rather than individually judging a group or idea.



ethics: A sense of, or system of, morals and values.

etiquette: Appropriate conduct or procedure, as required by social or official life.



flashback: The vivid reoccurrence of a past, usually traumatic, incident in the mind.

framework: Basic, conceptual structure; a structural plan or formula.



goal: The end towards which effort is directed.



hard of hearing: Individuals who experience hearing loss from a physical or audiological perspective. An individual who is hard of hearing may primarily use spoken language (their residual hearing and speech) to communicate.

hearing: Individuals who are not deaf and who come from the dominant American culture.

heart disease: An abnormal, organic condition of the heart or of the heart and circulation system, which causes a reduction in blood flow through the coronary arteries to the heart, leading to chest pain or disease.



incidence: The number of new cases of a disease or other condition occurring in a population during a defined time interval.

informed decision: A decision based on proper and sufficient information.

instant messenger: A free online service that lets you communicate over your computer or PDA in real time. Using certain features you can see when people are available to “talk” with you. There are various kinds of IM services.

institutionalization: The act of placing someone in the care of an institution, care facility, or other agency that will be responsible for full care of a person. Historically, many people with disabilities were institutionalized against their will.

interactive: Involving the actions or responses of users.



jurisdiction: The territorial range of a law, authority, or certain kinds of control; the right to interpret legal rights and interpret the law.



kinesthesia: A sense mediated by receptors located in muscles, tendons, and joints and simulated by bodily movements and tensions that regulate a person's perception of space and movement.



late-deafened: Individuals who grow up hearing or hard of hearing and, either suddenly or gradually, experience a profound loss of hearing later in life.

linguist: A person who specializes in languages.



mainstream: To incorporate into the majority or general group.

mandatory reporter: A professional who is required by law to make a report to federal, state, or local agencies when abuse, neglect or violence have occurred. Oftentimes, such reporters include health care workers, welfare workers, teachers or social workers, residential service workers, and law enforcement personnel. Laws vary by state.

mandatory reporting: All states have mandatory reporting laws, and although the specifics may vary among states, these laws require that certain professional groups report certain cases of abuse and/or neglect to law enforcement, social services and/or other regulatory agencies.

Manually Coded English (MCE): A term used to describe a visual (signed) form of the English language. While this system may use American Sign Language (ASL) signs as a base, they follow the grammar and syntax of English.

mediation: An act in which a neutral third party sits down with the parties in conflict to look for mutually acceptable solutions.

methodology: A particular set of procedures or analyses employed by a discipline.

microcosm: A community or other unity that is an epitome of a larger community or unity.

minority: The smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole; a group having less than the number of votes necessary for control; a part of the population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment.

mission: A pre-established and often self-imposed objective or purpose.

moderator: One who presides over an assembly, meeting or discussion; nonpartisan.





obesity: The extreme end of being overweight. This category is determined by the Body Mass Index (BMI) that considers weight in relation to height. A BMI of 30 or over is considered obese.

objective: Something towards which effort is directed; an aim, goal or end of action; a strategic position to be attained.

open-ended question: Questions that will solicit additional information from the inquirer; broad in nature and requiring more than a one or two word answer.

orthotic equipment: Supportive tools used to support, align, maintain or aid weakened joints or muscles and improve the function of the body.



pager: An electronic device used to contact people via a paging network. It pre-dates mobile phone technology, and today has mostly been replaced by PDAs and other text-messaging equipment.

perpetrator: A person who executes criminal behavior. On this website, we refer to people who execute sexual assault and rape as perpetrators.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A complex health condition that can develop in response to a traumatic experience that causes a person to feel intense fear, horror or a sense of helplessness. PTSD can cause severe problems at home or at work. Anyone can develop PTSD – men, women, children, young and old alike.

prevalence: A measure of a condition in a population at a given point in time.

protocol: A code prescribing strict adherence to correct etiquette and precedence; a set of conventions governing the treatment and formatting of data or other information.





Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS): The emotional response to the extreme stress experienced by the survivor of sexual assault. RTS is a response to the profound fear of death that almost all survivors experience during an assault.

referral: The act, action, or instance of sending or directing to treatment or assistance of some kind.

respiratory disease: Respiratory conditions affect children and adults with a range of breathing problems including chronic respiratory health problems like emphysema, allergic reactions, asthma and multiple chemical sensitivities.

rural: Of or relating to the country: people who live there, life in a non-urban area, agriculture.



screen: To examine methodically in order to make a separation into different groups or acceptance; to test or examine for the presence of something.

sexual harassment: A form of sex discrimination. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

shock: The impact or effect of a violent or jarring experience. A state of being depressed, disturbed, or scared.

simultaneous communication: A method in which spoken English and its manually coded or signed version are used at the same time. Simultaneous communication is often referred to as total communication.

socio-economic status: Of, relating to, or involving a combination of social and economic factors.

stakeholder: One that has an interest in and connection to the outcome of a certain gain or loss.

stalker: Someone who obsessively pursues another person. On this website, we refer to people who execute stalking behavior and break such laws as stalkers.

strategy: A long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, as differentiated by certain tactics or actions.

survey: A written set of questions used to collect information.

survivor: A person who has continued to live, prosper or remain functional after a traumatic event; considered an empowering term preferred by the violence against women movement.



tactic: A method or device for accomplishing an end.

telecommunication relay services: A telephone service that allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls by using operators to facilitate conversations over the phone through a typewriter or computer.

Teletypwriter (TTY): A device that allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech difficulties use the telephone to communicate, by typing messages back and forth to one another. The messages get sent over the phone line, and other person’s responses can be read on the TTY’s text display.

template: Something that serves as or establishes a pattern.

timeframe : A period of time, especially with respect to certain actions or project’s completion.

total communication: A communication system that uses a combination of methods such as signed, oral, auditory, and written aids depending on the particular needs and strengths of an individual.

trauma: A disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.



undue burden: An accommodation that is unduly costly, extensive, substantial or disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of an organization or program.

Universal Design: A framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind.

urban: Of, relating to, or characteristic of a city, and the people and fixtures in it.



victim: A person against whom a crime is committed; most often used as a legal term, but also used in some organizations when discussing women or survivors who come in for services.

victim/survivor: A phrase that recognizes two perspectives on the experiences of people who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. While some agencies might refer to someone as a victim, others prefer to use a word that feels more empowering to them - "survivor."

Video Relay Service (VRS): A free service for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals that enables anyone to conduct video relay calls with family, friends or business associates through an interpreter via a high-speed Internet connection and a video relay solution (or VRS call option).

videophone: A videophone is a type of technology that allows Deaf people to use their computer or TV, with a camera and a high speed connection to see each other and communicate directly in ASL.

vision statement: A statement giving broad, aspirational image of the future that an organization is aiming to achieve.

Voice Carry-Over (VCO): A tool for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing but who wish to use their own voice and speak directly to the other party. In response, the relay operator types what is said by the other party and the VCO user reads it on TTY text display.



white cane: A mobility tool that can assist someone who is Blind in travel. It can be used to feel for objects or obstacles, as an alert to other people, or to offer physical stability to the user.

work plan: A detailed, written plan detailing the work that a group or team will accomplish, including an outline of duties, supervisors, checks and balances, resources, and a time frame.