Mesa is the first-ever Autism Certified City in the U.S. designated by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), the result of nearly a year-long quest to tailor travel experiences for individuals with autism and their families.
The effort behind the designation was launched by Visit Mesa, the leading regional destination marketing organization, to encourage businesses to participate in specialized autism training geared toward executives and front-facing hospitality and service staff to better recognize Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and service the needs of ASD travelers from the planning stages of a vacation to when they arrive in the destination, and throughout their stay. Marc Garcia, Visit Mesa's CEO, ignited the effort after his 6-year-old son's autism diagnosis.
"With Visit Mesa leading the charge, Mesa, Ariz. is rolling out the welcome mat for individuals on the autism spectrum," said Mesa Mayor John Giles. "We commend Marc Garcia and the staff at Visit Mesa for their vision."
In total, almost 60 businesses and organizations in Mesa and the surrounding area completed autism certification training, and are now each deemed a Certified Autism Center by IBCCES. The effort was immediately embraced by other city factions including the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and numerous non-profit organizations. More than 500 Mesa Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities employees and 1,200-plus Mesa Police Department public safety and law enforcement officers are fully committed to autism certification training. To date, nearly 4,000 community members have completed or committed to the autism certification.
See complete list and learn more about the initiative: www.AutismTravelAz.com.
"Our goal is to ensure individuals with autism and their families enjoy an ideal vacation in Mesa, Ariz.," said Marc Garcia, president & CEO of Visit Mesa. "As a parent of a child diagnosed on the spectrum, not only is inclusivity the right thing to do, it makes business sense."
Visit Mesa also completed the training. In April 2019, IBCCES named Visit Mesa the country's first-ever destination marketing organization designated as a Certified Autism Center. Visitors can download the Autism Travel Guide, a helpful travel planning resource featuring all Mesa-area Certified Autism Centers and participate in the Visit Mesa Autism Travel GeoTour.
"IBCCES certifies organizations around the globe," said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman. "Mesa, Ariz. stands out for the drive of its leaders and the commitment, passion and engagement of the business community. We're proud to say that through this partnership and the IBCCES certification, individuals with autism or sensory sensitivities can feel confident they will have a positive experience in Mesa."