PanamaTimes

Sunday, Jun 16, 2024

Mesa, Arizona Becomes Autism-Friendly City

Mesa, Arizona Becomes Autism-Friendly City

Mesa, Arizona, is becoming an autism-friendly city to ensure that neurodiverse travelers have a better experience on their trip than the family did on their own holiday.
The city has 80% of its public-facing staff trained in neuro-inclusive practices and tools, and the tourism bureau is certified by the IBCCES.

The training teaches staff how to understand autism and how to communicate and accommodate neurodiverse individuals more effectively.

Mesa is the first city in the US to adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program, providing free sunflower-themed lanyards and bracelets to alert hospitality employees and other informed members of the community that the person or family might need some extra assistance or patience navigating the destination.

The city of Mesa, Arizona, became the first Autism-Certified City in the world in November 2019.

Since then, other tourism bureaus and cities have started to follow suit and become Certified Autism Centres.

The certification program requires annual training and re-certification to ensure that employees stay up to date on the latest neuro-inclusive practices and tools.

In Mesa, more than 60 different businesses and organizations have completed the training to become CACs. The Arizona Museum of Natural History, for example, provides a helpful guide of the sensory impact of different galleries, which can be accessed either online or viewed in each gallery entrance.

The Mesa Arts Center offers weighted blankets and noise-cancelling headphones at performances to help with sensory stimulation.

Jennifer Hedgepeth, event services coordinator at the Mesa Arts Center, stated that the training she received was particularly personal since she has a child on the autism spectrum and that the Center provides accommodations to help during performances.

Mesa Parks & Recreation District in Arizona provides accessible outdoor activities for people with disabilities, such as camping and fishing training.

The city has also launched an autism-friendly GeoTour, where visitors can uncover hidden geocaches in certified autism centers using the Geocaching app.

The city has partnered with Aira, an app that provides visual interpretation services for people who are blind or low vision, and Wheel the World, a website that maps detailed accessibility information of destinations.

These partnerships aim to make travel planning and accessibility information more accessible and stress-free for people of all abilities.
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