The Santa Barbara Zoo Expands Upon Its Certified Autism Center™ Designation

The Santa Barbara Zoo continues to expand their inclusion and accessibility efforts. The Zoo earned their Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) designation in 2018, and since then has extended their efforts to welcome all guests.

Santa Barbara Zoo created a summer event, Autism Safari Nights, where parents can drop-off their kids at the Zoo’s sensory room and while parents get a much-deserved break and have opportunities to meet new friends navigating autism. Also, the Zoo has partnered with other inclusion-driven organizations, as well as started a new community event called “Zoo for All” to highlight and feature community businesses that have inclusion focused missions. The Zoo has had the honor of presenting at two conferences to discuss their Certified Autism Center™ certification and inclusive programming. The CAC designation, granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), must be renewed every two years to ensure staff are up-to-date on training and best practices.  In addition to training additional staff members through IBCCES, the Zoo currently offers sensory backpacks, a social narrative to view on their website prior to visiting, and other additions to the website for accessibility as well as an updated map with “Quiet Space” areas.

Santa Barbara Macaws

One mother who was overjoyed to find a summer camp that would welcome her son, who has autism, said, “Before Zoo Camp, Diego used to have severe social anxiety, not the average shyness you see in a preschooler but legit anxiety. I can’t tell you how painful it was as his mother to watch him be so stressed out when we went to the park or big family events. Yet in the four short weeks Diego attended Zoo Camp, I got to see him be a ‘normal’ kid for the first time. He says hi to strangers when we ask without shutting down, he let us leave him at camp even without his supports there, he responded to his counselors and JCC’s when they talked to him, and even joined in group time for the first time in his life. All of this is thanks to you and the SB Zoo taking a chance on him. With that small window of opportunity to practice his social skills, he is now thriving!! There are just not enough words to express my gratitude.”

For over 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism certification for healthcare, education and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and attractions industry. IBCCES is the only credentialing organization providing this type of certification, which includes evidence-based information as well as the perspectives of individuals with autism, alongside other tools and resources such as onsite reviews and customized recommendations to ensure the program is a long-term commitment and has a lasting impact.

“Our Certified Autism Center™ designation requires long-term commitment, and we’re excited to continue our partnership with the Santa Barbara Zoo,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.  “It is so important to have accessible options for all guests .”

IBCCES also created, a free online resource for parents that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements.


About Santa Barbara Zoo

Known as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to more than 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. The Santa Barbara Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA endangered species programs for Masai giraffe, California condor, island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. As a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Santa Barbara Zoo depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements. Visit

Learn More About Becoming a Certified Autism Center™

Fill out the form below to learn more about our CAC Program, which includes staff certifications, training options and center certification.

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