New paths in Tennessee Disability Pathfinder’s redesigned website

Screen shot of Pathfinder homepage

Information on Tennessee disability resources and services is now more readily accessible than ever on Tennessee Disability Pathfinder’s redesigned website with paths to its helpline, resources, community events, and Multicultural Program.

Pathfinder director Megan Hart unveiled Pathfinder’s redesigned website at the annual Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Retreat in late October. The Council is a major funder of Pathfinder’s free information and referral services. Other funders include the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD).

Although the website’s resources are updated regularly, this makeover marks the first major change to the site, still found at www.familypathfinder.org, in over 5 years. Pathfinder staff realized that ways to use the site needed to be made clear and social media access needed to be enhanced.

Photo of Pathfinder staff

Pathfinder staff: (Row 1 L-R) Kimmie Jones and Megan Hart (Row 2 L-R) Cecilia Melo-Romie, Elise McMillan, Tracy Beard, Alexander Santana, Karen Mevis, and Sarah Kassas

“Tennessee Disability Pathfinder has forged a significant presence in the disability community as an invaluable resource for information and referral,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the VKC UCEDD and Faculty Director of Pathfinder. “It’s essential that Pathfinder’s online presence be as accessible as possible.”

The road to a redesigned site was not a simple one. Pathfinder staff poured over other effective websites and devised ways to make its website and online database even more user friendly than its former site.

“While we wanted the site to look great, most importantly, we wanted it to be more helpful to those we serve—to persons with disabilities, family members, service providers, and others,” said Hart. “We also sought a unified look, establishing the compass image and tag for our mission—‘Your navigator on the path to community services’—consistently branding our website and other electronic and print materials. We also selected photos to showcase the wonderful diversity in our disability community.”

The redesign process involved focus groups, long staff meetings, several revisions, and review by Pathfinder’s Advisory Council and the VKC UCEDD Community Advisory Council. Ultimately, Pathfinder staff devised a site that addressed a variety of concerns and areas to strengthen.

New features on familypathfinder.org include:

  • Advanced Search Option: Since most users visit the site to use the online resource database, this feature now allows them to narrow their results further by selecting added criteria including but not limited to funding source, age of client, and type of disability. The Search site is “responsive” so that it formats for readability on mobile devices.
  • Social Media: Now that social media sites are a major part of outreach, those links need to be highly visible. Most sections of the site have links to Pathfinder’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts at the top of the page next to the Search bar. Social media links are most prominent on the Community Engagement page, which features live up-to-date feeds.
  • Secure Online Contact Form: The Need Help page provides an email address and phone number for contacting Pathfinder, and now offers a secure online form giving users a new option where they can feel comfortable sharing personal information.
  • Staff Photo and Contacts: Pathfinder wanted those they serve to feel like they knew the staff members on the other end of the Helpline. The revised About Us page includes a group staff photo and contact information for each staff member.
  • Newsletter Information: The Compass, Pathfinder’s monthly e-newsletter, has become a valuable source of information. The current and archived issues are now linked on the Community Engagement page, including a link to subscribe.
  • New Pathfinder Materials: With the assistance of Kylie Muccilli, VKC art director, Pathfinder has attractive informational fliers and bookmarks that can be downloaded from the Community Engagement page.
  • Spotlight: Pathfinder staff provide training events around the state. The new Spotlight page lists upcoming and past events to inform Tennessee communities of training available.
  • English to Spanish Translation: For the Multicultural Program section and Camino Seguro to be fully inclusive, staff translated web content, so users can now toggle between English and Spanish using a “button” in the upper right corner, which avoids “busy” pages with both English and Spanish text. Camino Seguro is a searchable database of disability and social service agencies who have staff bilingual in English and Spanish.

The Pathfinder website continues to include Community Events, a calendar of Tennessee disability-related events searchable by location, audience, disability type, and event type. Tennessee organizations can contact Hart (megan.hart@vanderbilt.edu) to establish an account and enter their events.

The Pathfinder site continues to provide a Library of resources, accessed through Find Resources.

Use social media to give feedback

Pathfinder staff encourage users to browse the redesigned site and to share their reactions on social media using the hashtag #HowIUsePathfinder. A few samples follow.

“Still the best resource directory for Tennesseans with disabilities”
-Disability Rights Tennessee

“Aging Services often coincide with disability services. And some of you who are not involved in the disability community may be facing issues with aging parents, and this website is helpful for that as well.”
-Janet Shouse, VKC Program Coordinator (IDD Toolkit)

Kimmie Jones is social media coordinator of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and editor of Pathfinder’s Compass e-newsletter.

“Giving

This is a monthly email of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Notables published by the Communications staff of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.