Mesa, Arizona, is the first-ever autism certified city within the U.S.
In order to achieve the title, the Arizona town shepherded many of Mesa’s local businesses to earning their Certified Autism Center status, which requires at least 80% of a business’s staff be highly trained and fully equipped in the field of autism.
“This movement is motivated by my own journey as a father to a son on the spectrum,” Visit Mesa President and CEO Marc J. Garcia said in press release. “When we received our diagnosis, our world was rocked. Travel is integral to our life and I’ve always felt this was a terrific opportunity to educate the hospitality industry and drive our destination toward inclusivity. I know families will feel comfortable coming to Mesa knowing our hotel staff is trained, our museum staff is trained and that we offer great sensory awareness as a destination.”
Mesa features dozens of Certified Autism Centers, including Rhodes Aquatic Complex & FlowRider and the OdySea Aquarium.
“Congratulations to Visit Mesa for leading the drive for our community to become the first-ever Autism Certified City in the world,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said in a news release. “Now our visitors can tailor their experiences here in Mesa, Arizona based on a scale developed to inform travelers of the sensory impact of an activity. We also have hundreds of front-of-house staff across industries trained in providing customer service to those diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.
“The ASD community is growing and underserved with nearly 32 million travelers looking for a safe environment to enjoy a family vacation. Mesa is speaking loud and clear for these families around the country and around the world as we welcome them to our destination and make history.”
According to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, 1 in 54 8-year-old Arizona children were identified with ASD in 2020.
“One question you may have is, why Mesa?” Mayor Giles said. “The answer is that one of Mesa’s core values is compassion. When there is a need in our community we step up. Our businesses, non-profits, government agencies, faith-based organizations and community groups come together to do the right thing. Mesa truly has something for everyone from the breathtaking beauty of the Sonoran Desert to the extraordinary mix of arts, museums, shops and restaurants downtown, we serve up an authentic Arizona experience for visitors of all ages and abilities.”