Key CLAS-related Terminology, cont.

Terminology D-Z

Disability: a physical (visible) or mental (invisible) impairment that substantially affects one or more of a person’s major life activities

Discrimination: Treatment or consideration based on class or category vs individual merit

Ethnicity: Characteristics of a group of people who share a common, distinctive racial national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage

Healthcare organization: Any public or private institution involved in any aspect of delivering healthcare services

Health disparities: Differences in health among individuals in a population.

Identity: the way in which people view themselves

Interpreter: Person who translates orally from one language to another

Limited English proficiency: Difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or understanding English because an individual:

  • Was not born in the US or speaks a native language other than English or
  • Comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant
  • Is American Indian or Alaskan Native and comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on her/his level of English proficiency
  • Such individuals therefore lack the opportunity to learn successfully in classrooms in which English is the language of instruction or to participate fully in US society

Nationality: Status of belonging to a particular nation by birth or naturalization; people who share a common origin, culture and/or language, and possibly constituting a country

Ombudsperson: A person who investigates complaints, reports findings, and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties

Patients: Individuals, including accompanying family members, guardians, or companions, seeking physical or mental healthcare, or related, services

People of color: Term used to refer to nonwhite people, sometimes used instead of or interchangeably with the term "minority," which may suggest inferiority or disenfranchisement

Quality of life: Factors considered important by patients such as environmental comfort, security, interpersonal relations, and autonomy in making decisions


  • A local or global human population distinguished as a group by inherited physical characteristics
  • A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geography

Religion: Set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader

Sexual orientation: The direction of one’s sexual interest toward members of the same, the opposite, or both sexes

Sign language: Mode of communication by hand gestures commonly used by and for deaf persons; American Sign Language (ASL) is the most commonly used sign language in the United States; deaf people from different countries use different sign languages

Staff: Individuals either employed directly by an organization or subcontracted or affiliated with it

Stereotype: a preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard to individual differences

Strategic plan: Approach that incorporates elements of a variety of kinds of planning and anticipates potential problems

Translator: Person who converts written material from one language (the source language) into a different language to another

Adapted from:

  • CLAS Standards Final Report—US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health
  • “Cultural Competency Glossary”—Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity, University of Iowa.
  • “What Is Cultural Competency?”—US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health
  • Woodring College of Education, Western Washington University





Howard University College of Medicine AIDS Education and Training Center - National Multicultural Center