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We are excited to introduce DMA West's newest member service -- EXCHANGE -- the online community for western destination marketers.
EXCHANGE is the best space to participate in in-depth discussions and receive feedback and resources from your professional peers. Employees who work for DMA West member DMOs are encouraged to participate in DMA West's EXCHANGE.
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Once your account is created and approved by DMA West staff, you will receive an approval notification for your EXCHANGE participation. At that time, log in and click on your name above the "New Discussion" button (left panel). Then, click on the arrow next to the head silhouette icon (far right - across from your name) which will bring up the "Edit Profile" option. In this section, you may add your profile image and set your "Notification Preferences" and "Category Notifications."
If you need assistance at any step in the process, contact DMA West staff at 916.443.9012 or email@example.com. Welcome to EXCHANGE.
Mesa, Arizona, Becomes First-ever Autism Certified City in U.S.
Visit Mesa Rolls Out the Welcome Mat to the Autism Community, Invites Visitors from Across the Country
Mesa is the first-ever Autism Certified City in the U.S. designated by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), raising the profile of the East Valley city to millions of individuals with autism and millions of annual travelers impacted by autism. The innovative initiative is expected to raise the national profile of the city and inject a new source of visitor dollars to the region.
The nearly year-long effort behind the autism designation was launched by Visit Mesa 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 serve 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, Arizona, is rolling out the welcome mat for individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Mayor John Giles. “We commend Marc Garcia and the staff at Visit Mesa for their vision.”
|Mesa Mayor John Giles (left) and Visit Mesa CEO Marc Garcia celebrate Mesa, Arizona, being named the first-ever Autism Certified City in the U.S., raising the profile of the city to millions of individuals with autism. Mesa has rolled out the welcome mat to the autism community. Photo Credit: Rick D’Elia.|
The effort was immediately embraced by other city factions including the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and numerous nonprofit 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 – and that number is growing!
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, such as Jake’s Unlimited, AZ Goat Yoga, i.d.e.a. Museum, Arizona Museum of Natural History, Mesa Arts Center, Main St. Bar and Grill and Escape Rooms Mesa. See a complete list here: AutismTravelAz.com.
In April 2019, IBCCES named Visit Mesa the country’s first-ever destination marketing organization designated as a Certified Autism Center.
“Visit Mesa is a national change agent in the travel industry. We’ve always been entrepreneurial and innovative in the ways we respond to the needs of our regional visitors. Autism training and certifications are the latest example,” said Marc Garcia, president & CEO of Visit Mesa. “Our goal is to ensure individuals with autism and their families enjoy an ideal vacation in Mesa, Arizona. As a parent of a child diagnosed on the spectrum, not only is inclusivity the right thing to do, it makes business sense.”
IBCCES announced Mesa’s designation at the Mesa Arts Center on November 18, 2019.
Dr. Kerry Magro, an award-winning professional speaker, best-selling author and autism consultant to the upcoming HBO series, “Mrs. Fletcher,” served as the event’s keynote speaker, presenting a talk called, “Defining Autism: from Nonverbal to Professional Speaker.”
“Growing up from my earliest days of severe autism, public outings and traveling were not often an option available to me and my family. I’m now happy to see today, though, that groups such as IBCCES & Visit Mesa are steering the way to a more inclusive environment for all our families,” Magro said. “When I heard of Marc Garcia’s story of supporting his son on the autism spectrum, I was close to tears. We often say it takes a village and people like Marc make a true difference for this community.”
Mesa’s efforts have rubbed off on neighboring towns. The Town of Queen Creek is pursuing autism certification. Queen Creek’s Fire Department recently signed on and their Parks and Recreation Department has already completed the training to earn the Certified Autism Center designation.
|Nearly 4,000 community members have completed or committed to autism certification. The Thibault family (shown above) from New York visited Mesa to audit businesses and organizations that underwent autism training.|
IBCCES’ comprehensive, evidence-based process includes educational training and knowledge assessments of common behaviors and sensory considerations associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some businesses also participated in IBCCES audits to further improve experiences for individuals with autism.
More than 32 million individuals with autism and their families travel each year, according to IBCCES’ data. More than $262 billion is spent on autism-related services in the U.S. each year, according to IBCCES. Autism affects a significant number of people as ASD is at a 600 percent increase year after year, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Visit Mesa has big plans to promote local hospitality opportunities. Participating businesses are included in a variety of planned Visit Mesa marketing opportunities such as:
- Autism Travel Guide, a helpful travel planning resource featuring all Mesa-area Certified Autism Centers
- National awareness campaign featuring new advertising themes promoting ASD travel
- Dedicated online presence on AutismTravelAZ.com, a free online resource for parents
- Autism-Certified travel planning portal on the new VisitMesa.com website
- Featured location on the geocaching app featuring Mesa and promoted to ASD travel community
For almost 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training for licensed healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. Florida-based IBCCES created training and certification programs after recognizing that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options.
“IBCCES certifies organizations around the globe,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman. “Mesa, Arizona, 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.”