Mesa Becomes First-ever Autism Certified City in U.S.
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. IBCCES announced Mesa’s designation at the Mesa Arts Center on November 18, 2019. 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 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. 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 – 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. In April 2019, IBCCES named Visit Mesa the country’s first-ever destination marketing organization designated as a Certified Autism Center. 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 geo-caching app featuring Mesa and promoted to ASD travel community
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.
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.