Special Olympics Asia Pacific partners with Microsoft to launch fitness app for people with intellectual disabilities

competitors at the Special Olympics

SPROUT was developed in partnership with Microsoft , PALO IT Singapore , Empire Code and Hari Shankar Design & Consulting

Singapore, April 25, 2019 – Special Olympics Asia Pacific has officially launched SPROUT, an inclusive fitness application that aims to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) to live a healthy lifestyle through the gamification of simple exercises.

Developed in partnership with Microsoft, PALO IT Singapore, Empire Code and Hari Shankar Design & Consulting, SPROUT’s design was informed by research done with athletes from Special Olympics Singapore.

It incorporates features such as animated exercise videos, exercise time progress bars, auditory cues, mandatory rest and lock-out periods as well as a user interface accessible to people with ID. The app also encourages caregivers to be more involved in the physical fitness of their dependents and bond with them in new ways by joining in or monitoring their progress.

The app encourages users to exercise regularly by completing exercise routines that allow them to convert movements into four elements that nurture a seedling into a plant; water, wind, sun and food. Each growth element is unlocked when an exercise is successfully completed by the user. After each level, the app will be locked for 24 hours as a mandatory rest period to prevent excessive use.

Globally, six out of ten people with ID suffer from obesity as they lack opportunities to engage in recreational activities or to stay active due to social isolation. This sedentary lifestyle is exacerbated when they leave school. As a result, they often face significant health challenges coupled with a shorter lifespan. (See: Heslop P, Blair PS, Fleming P, Hoghton M, Marriott A & Russ L. (2013). The Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with intellectual disabilities in the UK: a population – based study. Lancet. 383(9920), 889 – 95.)

Exercises in SPROUT are based on Special Olympics’ proprietary FIT5 framework. This framework, incorporating nutritional considerations as well, provides a safe, tested and gradual way for a person with ID to stay fit. There are 5 levels of exercises in FIT5 that SPROUT breaks up into 10 gameplay levels, with each level containing exercises for strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.

“Special Olympics Asia Pacific believes in developing innovative solutions that will transform the lives of people with ID across the region. Singapore has proven to be an excellent place to connect with a variety of companies, both local and global, to effect positive change together” said Simon Koh, President and Managing Director, Special Olympics Asia Pacific. “We envision that this fitness app will change the way people with ID and their caregivers approach fitness, by allowing them to get active in a fun way.”

Special Olympics Asia Pacific was also able to draw on the expertise of partners in a collaboration that ensured SPROUT was a truly inclusive application. With Microsoft providing technical and project management expertise, Palo IT Singapore conducted the research and spearheaded the design of the application’s user interface to make it accessible to people with ID. Empire Code took on the responsibility for building the application and testing it, while Hari Shankar Design & Consulting, a Delhi-based firm, provided the animation for the exercise videos.

“Microsoft philanthropies is committed to ensuring new technology benefits everyone, leaving no one behind and we believe that by innovating for the one billion people around the world with a disability, we are innovating for everyone, said Dr. Daiana Beitler, Philanthropies Director for Microsoft Asia.

Johannes Cheong, Athlete Leader, Special Olympics Singapore
Johannes Cheong – Athlete Leader, Special Olympics Singapore – speaks at the launch of the SPROUT app.

“We are truly honored to partner with Special Olympics to create a scalable solution to improve the daily life of people with intellectual disabilities. By activating all the assets we have to help build a tool that matters: our technology, including an Azure cloud donation; our partner ecosystem, which offered cash donation and extensive pro bono work; and our skills-based employee engagement program we are delivering on our mission – to empower everyone on the planet to achieve more.”

“SPROUT is the brainchild of a rigorous process of design, research, and testing. It’s in our DNA and vision of using tech for good to support causes that align to our values. This partnership is one of the ways we’re giving back to the community.” said Mr Vincent Desclaux, Managing Director, PALO IT, Singapore.

Jasmine Tang from Empire Code said, “As a computer science education and software development company, Empire Code believes in both inclusive education and hiring. Hence, we wanted to contribute to Special Olympics’ inclusive fitness app.”
SPROUT is currently available for download on the Google Play Store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=comspecialolympics.sprout

For more information, please contact:
Rodney Wong Senior Manager, Communications and Development rwong@specialolympics.org

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in more than 190 countries. In the Asia Pacific region, Special Olympics has touched the lives of more than 190 countries. In the Asia Pacific region, Special Olympics has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million athletes across 34 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics, as a global movement, delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. 

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