Arizona Office of Tourism Expands Reach to Build Upon Certified Autism Center™ Designation

Since becoming a Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) in 2019, the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) has been hard at work to educate and expand its accessibility offerings to help better serve autistic and other sensory-sensitive visitors to Arizona. 

“As the first state tourism office to earn IBCCES’ Certified Autism Center™ designation, we’ve had an amazing opportunity to start incorporating these insights into our actions,” said Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “That has included sharing insights from our autism training with partners, providing access to resources in our Official State Travel Guide, and, of course, recertification for our entire team this year.”

As part of the certification, AOT staff members are committed to ongoing IBCCES training, which according to the AOT team, proved to be extremely informative, beneficial in guiding future projects, and immediately applicable as they work toward increasing inclusivity in all the state’s tourism offerings.

Butterfly Wonderland

“The IBCCES training made me more aware and actively conscious of the importance of accessibility and all the ways we can help increase that as the state’s DMO,” said Tiana Velez, digital marketing manager of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “This is at the front of my mind as I work to update and enhance offerings and information regarding all types of accessibility on our customer-facing website,”

Informed by IBCCES’ training, AOT added a breakout session focused on accessibility to its Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism this year. Chief among the viewpoints shared was that accessibility and inclusion are about much more than physical access. As the entire team works toward providing increased resources and access, it is essential to keep in mind that those efforts must include accommodation for all, including those on the autism spectrum and with other sensory needs.

Family enjoying Arizona dinosaur exhibit

“We’re excited to continue our partnership with the Arizona Office of Tourism. The team is truly committed to guiding and providing resources to their autistic visitors to help ensure they have a memorable experience in Arizona,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman. “Spurred on by more local and regional efforts in destinations like Mesa, the first Autism Certified City, Arizona continues to lead the way to more accessible travel.”

To help visitors prepare for their upcoming travel, AOT added a call-out section to its new Official State Travel Guide identifying the Arizona Office of Tourism as a Certified Autism Center™ and providing access to as a resource for autism-inclusive destinations and travel resources.  

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