Being more inclusive: how our teams improve our apps' accessibility

The first parasport activities appeared in our product in summer 2021. Let's rewind and tell you what our Tech & Product team did to make our product more accessible to disabled users. 

💡 Here's a quick overview for those of you who don't know our apps: we've designed several apps all based on the same product using technology designed by Sport Heroes. It's called OLYMPUS. Or OLY to friends. OLY is used in all our experiences (Running Heroes, Swimming Heroes, Cycling Heroes, United Heroes...) and connects to a whole host of fitness trackers while enabling users to manually upload activities that can't be tracked. OLY currently covers almost 60 different activities. Anything from walking, yoga, football, and gardening to crossfit, horse riding and DIY. These activities are turned into points used to take part in connected challenges or get rewards.

Our aim is to celebrate EVERY effort, even day-to-day activities. Everyone works out their way at their own pace. It's our motto: Your Sport, Your Way.

1. Why upgrade our product? 

To be honest, we knew from the start that our product wasn't suitable for people with disabilities. In spite of that, we also knew that users with disabilities were tailoring it to suit them. That's a sign that they could and wanted to be part of the adventure. 

Obviously more needed to be done. 

As a company whose values are teamwork and solidarity, providing a more accessible experience was vital to us. But also because our clients rightfully expected us to make the changes necessary to provide a more inclusive user experience. These were the users who wanted answers from us: why weren't their parasport activities syncing on the app?  ⬇️

support-usersExcerpt of communication between our users and our support team


It was time to review the subject in September 2020. The Sport Heroes team decided to explore the issue with a task force made up of different business units (community, product, marketing, editorial) devoted to inclusivity.

Next came meetings, discussions, debriefs... And an incredibly enlightening get-together with the French Parasport Federation (FFH) which enabled us to talk to its members to get a better insight into how they work out and how they use connected devices and trackers.


By the end of it, we were sure of one thing:

There isn't just ONE magic solution to adapt our product and enable any user with disabilities to get to grips with it and use it to their advantage.  

Because every disability is unique. That said, it was up to us to put our all into making our product as accessible as possible by making the changes our users needed and expected of us.


2.Then what? How do we go about it?

It was time for our product experts and prototype makers to step up to the plate. First we had to identify the biggest pain points. Next came benchmarking. We researched leading trackers in this field to create a new prototype that's better suited to users with disabilities and provides them with a better experience.


A/ Find solutions to each pain point in the user experience

Our Product Manager identified 3 pain points which significantly impact the experience among our disabled users and came up with solutions to resolve them.


❌ Pain point:
Our product wasn't recognising parasport activities on our users' trackers (e.g. Apple Health) i.e. a wheelchair activity was identified as a workout so the user couldn't save it as a race they took part in.

✅ Considered solution:
Add new activity types to the product:

  • Daily moves for everyday outings
  • Wheelchair walk pace for workouts
  • Wheelchair racing for races
  • Handbike


All these activities can be manually added or synced from trackers that recognise wheelchair specifics.


nouvelles-activites-handisportExcerpt of the team documentation



❌ Pain point:
No specific ranking for users with disabilities and no way for them to identify themselves as such to highlight it as a specific feature, if they want to.

✅ Considered solution:
How do we provide greater visibility to disabled users? Our teams have explored several avenues. Firstly, the option of identifying themselves as disabled (in their profiles). Then creating a new category for race rankings.

Le contenu

❌ Pain point : 
An inappropriate user experience in terms of language and content, especially for paraplegic users.

✅ Solution envisagée : 
There's no point talking about "steps" if the user is tracking a wheelchair hike.

So say hello to "pushes".



B/ Design and make a new prototype (and approve it)

In UI and UX we trust

After exploring these issues, it was our Product Designer's turn to get in on the action to redesign both the UX and UI on our apps to tailor it to our Product Managers' requirements. On top of that, there's a prototype that covers new activities and new content -- we'll discuss rankings later. Plus: brand new icons to symbolise the activities in the dashboard and profile.



Prototype dashboard of the United Heroes app


The ultimate test: users

A prototype is good. But a prototype approved by those affected by these changes is better.

Our Product Manager & Product Designer duo met two users and asked them to test the new prototype before it went into development: 

  • Stéphane, para table tennis player and handcyclist
  • Emeric, French para table tennis national team member

Excerpts from user interviews

Emeric and Stéphane's involvement enabled our team to confirm their assumptions and perfect the prototype 🙏 before passing it onto developers to launch in Q2 2021.


3. What's the current situation?

There's still work to be done.

First up, we need to analyse the success metrics: more and more users have saved parasport activities since our apps were updated, even though we're yet to share the news about them!


Evolution of parasport activities between June 1st 2021 and September 27th 2021


Then we need to optimise our product: especially the rankings. We haven't found the right way to make parasport activities more visible in our ranking yet. Should there be a separate "parasport" category? That would involve entering the degree of disability and we're not sure that would be the right decision.

Most importantly: we're on a roll, let's not stop now.

As our users Emeric and Stéphane suggested, our Tech & Product team is also considering adding other activities to the product to make it even more inclusive. Rumour has it that para table tennis and wheelchair basketball are on the cards...

Our teams are also currently working to improve the experience for visually impaired users. Our apps may be compatible with VoiceOver on iOS but colour and contrast perception remain an issue. Our developers are in the process of upgrading the contrast ratio to improve product accessibility among visually impaired users.