Mesa, Arizona made history this month by becoming the first-ever autism-certified city. After completing autism certification training, nearly 60 businesses and organizations in Mesa and surrounding areas were designated as autism-friendly by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.
The yearlong effort was initiated by Marc Garcia, CEO of the Mesa tourism organization Visit Mesa. According to a report by 12News.com, Garcia was inspired to pursue the autism certification by his own vacation experience with his 6-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum. During that vacation, Garcia said he and his family were “made to feel uncomfortable, uninvited, unwelcomed and not just from other guests like us but from supposed hospitality professions, people in my business, people who should know better. And so, I said, ‘This is wrong. I’m going to do something about this in my hometown in Mesa,’ and so that’s how we embarked on this journey.”
Other groups, such as the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and numerous nonprofit organizations, immediately supported Garcia’s initiative. Over 500 Mesa Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities employees, and 200+ Mesa Police Department, public safety and law enforcement officers, are now fully committed to autism certification training.
“This is a very large consumer-base that we want to get in front of, and I think Mesa has a tremendous opportunity to do this,” Garcia said. “Mesa really is the perfect place for something like this.”