Since announcing their Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) designation in 2020, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) has been working extensively to broaden its accessibility options to better serve autistic individuals and other sensory-sensitive visitors. This now includes completing the Certified Autism Center designation at two additional locations: the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and the George Observatory.
“One of the critical missions of the Houston Museum of Natural Science is to enhance the knowledge of individuals and the delight in natural science,” said Joel Bartsch, HMNS president. “That is why we are devoted to making sure that everyone who comes through our doors can access the wonders of our collections. It is an honor and a privilege to be an IBCCES certified venue.”
The HMNS Exhibits Department has continued to make accessibility and inclusive sensory experiences a priority since becoming a Certified Autism Center™, which is a designation awarded by IBCCES to organizations that complete staff training and certification as well as an onsite review to provide additional supports such as sensory guides for visitors.
In addition to the HMNS Hermann Park location renewing its commitment to meeting the CAC standards this year, they have also incorporated more staff training related to disability awareness in general and focused on more inclusive hiring practices for staff with disabilities. The Sugar Land and Hermann Park locations offer backpacks with sensory toys, an exploration planner, visual vocabulary cards to assist in communication, and low-sensory events.
“I’m happy to have a better understanding that gives me the confidence to make a guest with autism that much more comfortable,” said an HMNS employee. Another employee shared, “I appreciate that this program has been put together to help us be a better organization that is welcoming to everyone.”
IBCCES designed the CAC process for attractions and hospitality organizations to help fill the need for inclusive and understanding recreation and vacation options for families and individuals with autism and sensory sensitivities. Many autistic visitors and their families want to feel comfortable when traveling or trying new experiences and knowing a location is trained, certified, and has resources to assist them makes planning their visit a much more positive experience.
“All the staff we came in contact with were amazing,” said an HMNS guest. “Everyone had a great time. Thanks for all the work you do with training your employees and helping the autistic community feel welcome.”
For more than 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for education, healthcare, and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES provides evidence-based training and certification programs created in conjunction with clinical experts and autistic individuals to offer professionals a better understanding of how to communicate and interact with individuals with cognitive differences or sensory needs, industry best practices, and the latest research in these areas.
“We’re proud to continue our partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The team is truly committed to creating memorable experiences that include all visitors,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman. “HMNS is leading the way by continuing their commitment to inclusion and growing the number of certified locations in the area for visitors and residents alike.”
IBCCES also created AutismTravel.com as a free online resource for parents that lists certified locations and professionals. Each organization listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements.
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