Noteworthy Voices 3-MIN. READ

Using Student and Teacher Feedback to Improve Product Accessibility

By: Paige Curley 03/21/2024
Discover how your feedback shapes accessibility, prioritizes usability, and creates equitable education products for all students.
A group of educators are engaged in a deep discussion.

My Curriculum Associates colleague, Hayle Wesolowski, and I recently had the privilege of presenting at the 39th Annual California State University, Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference. CSUN is a premier accessibility and assistive technology (AT) conference, taking place each year in Anaheim, California with a high attendance of researchers, educators, accessibility professionals, and AT users.

As a Grades K–12 publishing and education technology company, Curriculum Associates feels it is critical to attend CSUN to ensure we participate in discussions about increasing access to equitable education products for all students, especially those with disabilities who have historically been denied complete access to a high-quality education.

This year we were thrilled to be selected to join in these important discussions as presenters. In our session, "How to Use Customer Feedback to Drive Your Accessibility Roadmap," we focused on four main ideas:

  1. Educator and Student Feedback Is Valuable to Our Accessibility Roadmap
    A core aspect of our accessibility work includes tracking and analyzing the customer cases and feedback we receive. Codifying this data has allowed us to distill major themes that help guide important accessibility product decisions to align with what students and educators need.

  2. Feedback from Users with Disabilities Allows Us to Create Experiences That Prioritize Usability
    While we’re always striving to increase our compliance with web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG), we understand that compliance is just one part of accessibility best practices. If a compliant product isn't usable for the intended audience, then it's not truly accessible. This can often be the case for educational products that are solely relying on WCAG as guidance for accessibility, as the current versions of WCAG do not consider the specific needs of Grades K–8 students in an educational setting.

    For example, for Back to School 2024, we are targeting a release of embedded designated read-aloud support for Reading domains in our i-Ready Diagnostic where universal audio support was not already available. Although read-aloud support is not a WCAG requirement, we prioritized expanding access to this feature on our roadmap after many requests from educators made it clear how students would greatly benefit from a flexible approach to better meet individual student needs and allow for variances in state and local policies around read aloud.

  3. Pairing Qualitative and Quantitative Data Is Effective for Incorporating Accessibility in Our Product Roadmap
    Different types of data help further bolster the "why" behind our accessibility work and convey the importance of future accessibility features from both an equity and a business perspective. For example, we identified tactile graphics as a pressing issue after receiving a high volume of customer cases on the topic. Using that data alongside anecdotal feedback from conversations with educators helped us prioritize a short-term and long-term solution for the provision of tactile graphics.

  4. Progress in Our Accessibility Journey Is More Easily Achieved through Collaboration and Partnership across Teams
    We have achieved more progress by collaborating across different teams to align our accessibility goals rather than working in isolation. We are stronger and more effective when we work together on our commitment to implementing accessibility in all our products.

If you’re an educator of students with disabilities or an educator with a disability yourself, please know we are listening and want to translate your input into action. We are not satisfied with just checking boxes to meet minimum compliance requirements. Instead, we believe it’s critical that usability drives all our accessibility improvements. Your feedback and personal expertise are invaluable in our ongoing commitment to making accessible and usable education materials for all students and educators.

Learn more about our commitment to accessibility.