Article About CFPC’s New Website 11/14/2013

Central Florida Parent Center Announces: 
WWW.CENTRALFLORIDAPARENTCENTER.ORG is Up & Running!

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, Eileen Gilley, Director of Central Florida Parent Center (CFPC) sent out an announcement to all her staff members to pass along.  “After ten long weeks … our new website is up and functional!”  For the rest of the day, staff members reported in at the new site (www.CentralFloridaParentCenter.org), celebrating with Ms. Gilley by trying out the new site’s most intriguing new feature: an online help-desk.

“I remember back in the day, as a  parent of a young child with a disability, sitting up all night with books I got from the library, just trying to figure out – by myself – how to participate in my son’s educational planning,” said Diane Joslin, CFPC’s Resource Coordinator.  “I never could have imagined, twenty years ago, that someday there would be a website that parents could go to, click on a button, and chat live to another parent.”  Amazingly, that day is here.

CFPC’s original website (www.CFLparents.org) was launched on December 30, 2005.  Using Microsoft FrontPage, the only what-you-see-is-what-you-get HTML software that was available at the time, Ms. Gilley, Ms. Joslin, and Candy Simmons, the CFPC Operations Coordinator, did the best they could to develop a user-friendly website with loads of information and resources.  They wanted the site to be a structured-but-comfortable place for parents of children with disabilities to come and discover the availability of their free services, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.  Once the site structure was in place, a mirror site in Spanish was developed, translated by Milagros Pou, the CFPC Outreach Coordinator.

None of these four women were webmasters or HTML programmers by trade.

Nevertheless, over the last seven years, that site grew, with staff adding and subtracting pages as new needs and issues arose.  Hundreds of parents have left positive feedback to affirm that they did, in fact, find what they needed on the site and through the assistance of CFPC staff, changing their lives and ultimately their children’s lives by helping them to become active participants in their educational planning.

As a part of its closing, Ms. Gilley pulled the current statistics on the original site.  “I was surprised to find that we surpassed one big milestone and almost achieved another!”  The CFLparents website had documented visits from over a million individual computers and those visits totaled almost two million page views.  Not a bad legacy for a site built by amateurs.

For the development of the new site, CFPC was able to pull in some professional help.  They wanted a site that was tailor-made, but that ultimately could be maintained by staff, without FrontPage (which is no longer supported by Microsoft) or any other HTML software product.  They decided on a WordPress template which came with a built-in hierarchy structure, robust and capable of organizing and supporting a wide variety of information.  The professional programmer they contracted with to build the site introduced them to the WordPress world of widgets and plugins, which make features like the live chat and the Facebook feed possible.  Currently there are almost 30,000 plugins out there to choose from.

The end result is a crisp new look combined with structured and streamlined information about CFPC, its programs, and about just about any topic related to disability and the education of children with disabilities.  Drop in and take a look.

Some of the features of the new site include:

  • A “Help-Desk” chat button, available 24/7, which indicates whether representatives are available to chat.  (When none are available, users can leave a message).
  • A searchable new database, with information about and links to State Agencies, Organizations (Disability-Specific or General), Online Resources and Publications, as well as National, State, and Local Resources.  The database includes Support Groups, Vendors, Service Providers, Social Services Networks and topics such as Education, Conflict Resolution, Bullying, Response to Intervention, Behavior, Mental Health, Recreation, Transition, and much, much more.
  • The capability for anyone to add resources to our online database, through an easy-to-fill-out online form!
  • A new database of upcoming training events, including online live webinars and in-person workshops.
  • A live feed from the CFPC Facebook page on the home page.
  • A new section for testimonials from parents whose lives were affected by our program.
  • Information about our One-on-One Assistance with IEPs and also our Parent-Matching program, with an online request for help.
  • CFPC still maintains an online shared community calendar, where anyone can add their upcoming events.
  • CFPC is currently building a mirror site in Spanish.