As Canada’s Paralympians take the stage – and in all likelihood, the podium – in PyeongChang this month, a local firm has geared up to support the team from right here in Ottawa.
OPIN Software, a digital agency specializing in open-source web development, recently helped the Canadian Paralympic Committee launch a new, modern web presence just in time for the Paralympics.
It’s the Ottawa firm’s latest foray into the sporting world, where it’s helping a growing number of organizations build digital experiences using the increasingly popular Drupal platform.
“The Paralympic Games, in our eyes, are the top tier of athletic accomplishment,” says OPIN chief executive Chris Smith. “For us, helping people to realize the competitiveness and the toughness and the strength of our para-athletes is really important.”
As CPC’s official digital sponsor, OPIN has designed a new online platform that both organizations hope will permanently change the way Canadians view the Paralympics.
“One of the biggest barriers we face as a society is that people with special needs tend to be left out of participating in sports or physical activities,” says Martin Richard, the executive director of communications and brand for the CPC. In part, he attributes this to a lack of information, both for prospective athletes and educators.
Along with a newly designed website, which launched just in time for the winter games, OPIN helped the CPC design and build several digital tools to help more Canadians with disabilities become involved in sport.
A renewed digital presence
The Paralympic committee’s new digital platform will bring the games straight to Canadians, with a schedule of events and a live medal count widget so visitors can track the team’s progress.
“It goes beyond what we used to have as far as user experience,” says Richard. “It’s such a step up.”
In developing the new and improved platform, OPIN was also conscious of the need to make it accessible for everyone. For the visually impaired, navigating the web can be a challenge since many websites are laid out to look appealing rather than be navigable by a screen reader.
In building the digital experience, OPIN’s developers were careful to make the layout easy for a screen reader to follow. On the back end of the site, the team ensured all images were uploaded with alt text, videos with closed captions and text with the appropriate HTML formatting.
The end result is that screen readers can apply intonation to the text, resulting in a richer experience for users with visual impairments.
OPIN’S athletic prowess
OPIN’s relationship with the CPC began several years ago, when the agency was tasked with helping to design Find Your Sport, a web-based triage tool that allows those with disabilities to learn more about the sports tailored to their particular skills.
For example, it generates a list of sports for wheelchair users, including sledge hockey and para-skiing, among a number of summer sports. Once a user selects a particular activity, the Find Your Sport tool is then able to connect them with a club in their area.
As Canada’s capital, Ottawa is home to many national athletic organizations. OPIN has built considerable expertise in creating solutions for the sector through partnerships with the Canada Games Council and Commonwealth Games Canada.
The firm’s athletic work has also taken it outside the city as it delivered projects for Sport Manitoba and viaSport British Columbia, among others.
“It goes along with our values around promoting healthy living for Canadians,” Smith says.
Like many businesses and organizations around the globe, the CPC opted to use Drupal to power its new website.
The open-source platform powers approximately five per cent of websites – including those run by Tesla Motors, Canadian Prime Minister’s Office, Pfizer, Whole Foods and some two dozen federal departments and agencies – around the world and is increasingly winning over converts with its intuitive tools for content creation, workflow and publishing.
Unlike custom-built proprietary systems, a large community of some one million users and 90,000 developers continuously contribute to Drupal by creating freely distributed add-on features and enhancements.
While the attention of many athletics fans is focused on PyeongChang, both OPIN and the CPC hope to leverage this month’s Paralympics and use the new web platform to build a larger and more engaged audience.
Richard says the new website isn’t meant just for Paralympians and their immediate communities. It was built with a broader audience in mind, since every Canadian has the potential to be a Paralympic and para-sport fan.
“People that are aware of Paralympic sports naturally become ambassadors,” says Richard.
Alongside the online Paralympic Games coverage and information, visitors will also find extensive information on how to get involved in para-sport at any level, whether as an athlete or an educator.
Currently, only four per cent of Canadians with disabilities are active in sports. CPC hopes a wider following created by the new website and Paralympics buzz will have a ripple effect and encourage more Canadians with disabilities to get engaged in sports.
“We’re just getting started,” says Richard. “Working with OPIN, we’re going to continue to create great things that will help our movement and sport in general.”
Follow along with Canada’s athletes by visiting the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s new digital platform at games.paralympic.ca.
For Kendall Abraham and Tazirie LeClerc, the opportunity to work on the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s file was an experience like no other. Respectively, the pair work at OPIN Software as a product owner and a project manager.
“We feel like we’re a part of something bigger,” says LeClerc, who saw her contribution as helping CPC make a positive impact on countless lives across the country.
Working on projects for the CPC and other OPIN clients involves using the latest digital tools to deliver meaningful and engaging projects.
It also means meeting and working with unique and interesting clients.
“It’s really motivating for us, and for the team, to know that the work we’re doing is going towards people who have such big hearts,” says Abraham of the relationship with the CPC.
OPIN is currently growing. Learn more about the digital agency and its available positions at www.opin.ca/jobs.