About NARIC: The REHABDATA Thesaurus

Entries in REHABDATA are assigned keyword from the REHABDATA Thesaurus, a taxonomy of disability and rehabilitation terminology developed specifically for NARIC and the REHABDATA database. REHABDATA includes more than 70,000 abstracts. It’s a HUGE database! The Thesaurus is an excellent way to browse through REHABDATA and familiarize yourself with what we collect. The Thesaurus contains more than 1,250 terms and nonterms used in the literature every day.

What is a Thesaurus Term?

The bulk of the REHABDATA Thesaurus is terms that are currently used in disability and rehabilitation research literature. Some terms still follow a “medical model” of disability, describing the disability or treatment in terms of limitation or effect on the body. Other terms reflect the environmental model of disability, describing how a person with a disability interacts with his environment.

Each term may contain scope notes, which may include a brief definition. Terms are then cross-referenced by broad, narrow, and related terms. They may also include an antonym. If the term is prefered over a “nonterm”, the nonterm is included.

See Accessibility in the Thesaurus for a good sample entry.

So what is a nonterm?

A nonterm is vocabulary that is not used by the community but may appear in the literature. It may have been replaced by a more accurate term (i.e.  Head injuries vs Brain injuries) or one that avoids the medical model (i.e. Disabled workers vs Workers with disabilities). A nonterm will include cross-references to preferred terms.

Why do terms change?

Language is always changing and evolving. Industry language does, too. We talked about the shift from medical model to environmental model in disability and rehabilitation research. The language followed this shift. Also, as we understand more about a disability, our concept of it changes. For an excellent discussion on the change in terminology, we highly recomment Dr. Leonard Abbeduto’s editorial from the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

A New Edition?

This year, NARIC will review the terms and nonterms in the current (7th) edition of the Thesaurus. We are building a wiki for the thesaurus and invite you to review, comment, and suggest changes. You are the community, these are your words. The wiki is in its infancy (just 20 or so terms out of those 1,250) but it’s getting bigger every day.

To find out more about the Thesaurus Wiki and how you can participate, visit http://rehabdatathesaurus.pbworks.com/.

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