The town of Mesa, Arizona is attempting to secure a never-before held title for an American city. Mesa is on track to become the first-ever autism certified travel destination in the United States. An autism certification can be achieved once 80% of the guest-facing staff in a location is trained and certified in the field of autism. Marc Garcia is the CEO of Visit Mesa, the city’s tourism organization, and he is focused on creating a welcoming environment for individuals with autism and other sensory needs. Garcia has a 14-month old son who has been diagnosed with autism, which inspired him to improve this area to accommodate individual with special needs. Garcia shared that “We certainly wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t because of my son who is five years old now, diagnosed at 14 months.”
One characteristic of this future autism certified town would be an available autism travel guide which would provide information about businesses that have been certified along with some sensory information.
“There’ll be a sensory guide that’s listed, perhaps at the front door, so that an autism parent understands what their child may end up experiencing,” Garcia said to KJZZ. “And it doesn’t need to be a child, by the way, there’s also adults who live with autism. This is going to be servicing them as well.”
Visit Mesa realized the rapid increase in autism diagnoses in the United States, and understood that if autism is the fastest growing developmental disease in the world that towns and cities should begin learning how to accommodate their growing audience of potential visitors. Visit Mesa has been helped by IBCCESto facilitate their certification process. IBCCES is setting the standard for autism (and other cognitive disorders) certifications as the only known organization focused on the hospitality/travel industry. Hopefully in the coming years, other travel destinations will follow the lead of Mesa and start making improvements around their locations in order to benefit individuals diagnosed with autism, to make their travel experiences more accommodating and enjoyable.