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Special Olympics Michigan

Inclusive, Accessible Platform for Athletes With Disabilities

In 2019, Special Olympics Michigan partnered with Rapid Development Group to develop a new web platform designed to meet the specific and unique needs of a statewide Special Olympics organization—both for site visitors and for site administrators.


Site Architecture
User Experience
Front-end Development
Back-end Development

Drupal 8

Project Brief

When we first sat down with the CEO and communications director of Special Olympics Michigan, we weren't sure what to expect. We discovered that, operating as a grassroots organization, a few people with big hearts and a passion for their purpose were shouldering all the responsibility for keeping things running. Because of this, the project had multiple goals:

  1. Create an aesthetically pleasing, easy to understand website that followed Special Olympics brand standards and communicated relevant, useful, current information.
  2. Improve the administrative experience and shift the management responsibilities from creating and entering content to moderating content additions and edits made by other users.
  3. Implement design and structure using accessibility best practices, focusing on creating an inclusive experience for people with cognitive and physical disabilities.

Special Olympics Michigan needed a responsive website that served their athlete, coach, volunteer, and donor audiences. The site design and experience needed to help users quickly and easily find the sports and programs offered in their local area and connect them to the right people to get involved. Above all, it needed to be an instrument to bring communities together with common goals and interests.

Entity relationship diagram for Special Olympics site architecture
Blue equals Nodes, Orange equals Taxonomy Terms, Green equals Paragraphs

What We Did

To produce a product that would improve the experience on both sides, we took a deep dive and learned not only how the organization was structured, but how it was managed by its volunteers. We devised a way to manage programs, sports, and areas in a way that was easy to manage in one place, but dispersed information in multiple areas to give users the information they needed without having to click around to several places on the website. In this way we were able to improve both the site management experience and the end-user experience for Special Olympics Michigan.


Interpret Special Olympics branding in an accessible way


Use color, design, and layout to create an inclusive experience

With a high likelihood of users having mental and/or physical disabilities, it was important to determine a clear way to present information for everyone. Larger fonts and interactive buttons, clearly defined page sections, and reduction of clutter made content easy to peruse and understand. We also paid attention to keyboard navigation and content interpretation by assistive technology for an inclusive experience.

Architecting overlapping sets of information


Present summarized views of related content on different pages

The Special Olympics organization offers more than twenty sports in over thirty different areas in the state of Michigan. However, not every area offers the same programs. We created blocks displayed offered sports and programs on area pages, and whether a sport is offered in the user's local area when perusing by sports. This allowed admins to manage content in one place, but to show relevant parts of it on other pages.

Moderating content by multiple types of users


Create different roles, permissions, and workflows

The previous version of the Special Olympics website was maintained by one person, and proved impossible to maintain with each area having its own programs, sports, and events. With the new website, area and program leaders can edit relevant content and submit for review and approval. This shift from content creation and entry to moderated supervision lightened the workload for the site manager and made it much easier to keep content fresh and up to date.
Special Olympics Homepage with tagline, Revealing the champion in all of us
Special Olympics Michigan Swimming webpage
Special Olympics Michigan Area 11 webpage
As a non-profit serving those with disabilities, having a responsive website that's strong on usability and accessibility was key for us. Not only did RapidDG's team make that a top priority, they truly understood our organization's mission and branding in designing our new site. We couldn't have come across a better company to partner with and we look forward to continue working with RapidDG now and into the future as our organization and technology evolve.
Aaron Mills
Sr. Director, Marketing & Communications
Special Olympics Michigan