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The Importance of Accessibility in K12 Education

  • Published on: April 17, 2024
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  • Updated on: May 5, 2024
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  • Reading Time: 6 mins
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“Every student can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way” – George Evans

In the growing stages, a child’s brain is more like a lump of clay – you can mold it however you want. During this critical period, children undergo big changes in how they think, interact, and feel. Enter K-12, the most crucial period for shaping children’s developing brains. It not only imparts academic knowledge but also develops critical thinking, social interaction capabilities, and basic life skills. However, not all children are the same. They have different learning capabilities, grasping power, and thinking abilities.

Every child has a unique way of learning and some may experience difficulties due to certain disabilities that affect how they learn. Hence, it becomes necessary to understand each child’s unique needs. This is where accessibility and an inclusive learning environment become important. Still, there seems to be resistance regarding accessibility in K12 education. Approximately 94.7% of students with disabilities attend conventional classrooms to receive their education.

This makes it important for ed-tech companies to prioritize accessibility in K-12 education because it not only fosters relationships with the target audience but can also reach a broader market and demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusivity. In addition to complying with legal obligations and international standards, this commitment fosters fairness, improves learning results, and gives each student a personalized educational path.

 A professor and her students using a laptop for an interactive lesson, promoting accessibility in K12 education.


Standards and Guidelines for K-12 Accessibility

Federal legislation plays a pivotal role in K-12 education as it sets up guidelines and provides funding to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to study and achieve. Understanding this legal framework becomes crucial for not just ed-tech companies but also parents, educators, and advocates working to maintain the rights of students with disabilities.

Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA)

Originally known as the Education of Handicapped Children Act, IDEA’s main objectives are to regulate special education, make it available as a free public education, and guarantee special education services and related assistance to those children. It also specifies how students with impairments will be evaluated, identified, and assigned.

Americans with Disability Act (ADA)

ADA adds one extra layer to the word “disability” in a broader manner. It has guaranteed equal opportunities, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency while having a substantial impact on employment, public service accessibility, and public perceptions of disability.

WCAG 2.2

The most recent version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, known as WCAG 2.2, is designed to improve accessibility for those who use touch-screen devices or have low eyesight, cognitive and learning disabilities, or movement disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

This is an important deferral law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in activities and programs that get funding from the federal government. This law guarantees that no program or activity receiving government funding shall discriminate against, refuse to participate in, or deny benefits to qualifying individuals with disabilities.

EN 301 549

The enactment of EN 301 549 is to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to all digital, content and products and sets out key requirements for application layouts, typography, color, navigation, images, audio and video, and other digital content. It applies to all public sector bodies and private organizations whose services are used by US citizens.

European Accessibility Act (EAA)

The EAA sets standards to improve the functioning of a wide range of products and services including personal computers, operating systems, smartphones, ATM and ticketing systems, audio-visual media services such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment, services related to air, bus, rail, and waterborne passenger transport, banking and e-book services. The EAA applies to all products and services that are made in the EU and those from outside the EU that are sold there.


What Happens When Accessibility Guidelines Aren’t Followed?

Children with special needs have the lowest enrolment rates in schools, often because they are taught using curricula that are not appropriate for them. This causes serious consequences for such students since they don’t feel welcome. These repercussions can include anything from limited access to resources and difficulties in participating fully in classroom activities.

Non-compliance with these guidelines can also result in legal consequences. From a legal standpoint, institutions not adhering to these guidelines might have to go through the hefty process of paying penalty fees, fines, and also serious legal actions. One of the most prominent examples is D.H. ex rel. Harrington v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist, where the school was sued since they failed to provide effective communication to a student with a hearing impairment. The school was charged under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Since then, these rules have become even more strict. Non-compliance with accessibility can also cause moral consequences by making things unfair for people with disabilities, keeping them from being treated equally which can lead to stigma and division and further embed social stigma associated with disabilities.

Additionally, non-compliance can also lead to loss of market share and customer base. Ed-tech companies risk losing out on contracts and partnerships with educational institutions if they fail to abide by accessibility regulations, which can significantly impact their revenue. This could also lead to a decrease in enrollment and retention as students with disabilities would want to enroll in institutions that provide more accessible resources. Non-compliance could further lead to negative publicity and damaged reputation causing them to miss opportunities for growth and expansion.


What’s the Impact of K-12 Accessibility on Students?

The advantages of K-12 education extend beyond just classrooms. This learning approach gives students the skills and ability to navigate the complexities of the broader world more simply.

Inclusive classrooms allow students, with or without disabilities, an opportunity to learn together which results in improved academic performance. By providing accessible educational resources, ed-tech companies can guarantee students with disabilities to fully participate and interact with the modules in the learning process. Incorporating digital accessibility in K12 education, ed-tech companies can help students develop vital digital literacy skills enabling them to prepare for a technologically driven world.

Additionally, inclusive learning can also assist students with disabilities to develop essential skills and knowledge, enabling them to compete effectively in the job market. By catering to a wide range of students including those with disabilities, ed-tech companies that prioritize K-12 accessibility can increase the size of their market and potential customer base. This in return leads to increased adoption and revenue, as well as a positive reputation for the company.

Accessibility in K-12 education also provides personalized learning opportunities catering to students’ social and emotional needs. This can be done by incorporating features that promote social and emotional learning such as interactive tools for resilience-building exercises, self-reflection tools, and social interaction possibilities. Through this, ed-tech companies can provide a holistic learning experience beyond academic content.

Side view of a schoolboy and his classmates working in front of laptops while sitting in a row by desks, highlighting accessibility in K12 education.


How can Edtech Companies Comply with the Legislation?

Edtech companies can comply with the legislation simply by following a structured approach. This involves auditing products and platforms, remediating them to comply with accessibility norms, designing for accessibility from the start, and testing with actual user groups that include persons with disabilities.

Audit for Accessibility

The first step is to audit your edtech offerings.  Conducting accessibility audits of products and platforms becomes crucial for identifying areas that need improvement to meet the necessary compliance standards and guidelines. This helps ed-tech companies understand the current level of accessibility and determine necessary steps for improvement.

Accessibility Remediation

The second and one of the most important steps is to remediate their products and platforms to align with accessibility norms such as EAA, WCAG, or EN 301 549 to ensure accessible educational resources and technology.

Testing for Accessibility

Third, testing products with actual user groups would ensure that the accessibility features are effective and user-friendly. Here, edtech companies can involve individuals with disabilities during the testing process to get valuable insights into their user experience, identify barriers, and also make necessary adjustments to enhance accessibility.

Design for Accessibility

platforms are accessible right from the beginning. This allows edtech companies to integrate accessibility features into their designs during the development phase rather than retrofitting them later.

By using a more user-centric approach, edtech companies can get into the nuances, validate the effectiveness of accessibility features, and ensure their products and platforms are used with ease.

Every student has a unique way of learning. This emphasizes the importance of accessibility in K12 education so that no student is left behind, irrespective of their disabilities. For ed-tech companies, it becomes a mandate to adhere to the different standards and guidelines while creating their products and platforms. Therefore, developing a platform that prioritizes accessibility for all benefits both – the students as well as the company. If you’re an ed-tech company looking to promote accessibility in the education industry, Magic EdTech is your go-to buddy!


Accessibility in K-12 education is important because it ensures equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their abilities, fostering inclusivity and supporting diverse learning needs.

Common accessibility challenges in K-12 education include inaccessible learning materials, digital platforms, and physical environments, which can hinder the learning experience and academic performance of students with disabilities.

Ed-tech companies can prioritize accessibility by conducting audits, remediating products to comply with standards, designing with accessibility in mind, and testing with diverse user groups, including individuals with disabilities.

Legal regulations such as IDEA, Section 504, and ADA outline requirements for ensuring equal access to education for students with disabilities.

Non-compliance with accessibility guidelines can result in legal consequences such as fines and lawsuits, as well as moral implications such as perpetuating inequality and stigma against individuals with disabilities.

Educational institutions can promote accessibility by implementing inclusive teaching practices, providing accommodations and support services, and investing in accessible technologies and resources.

Parents and educators can advocate for greater accessibility by raising awareness, collaborating with policymakers and stakeholders, and supporting initiatives that promote accessibility and inclusion in K-12 education.

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