Perkins School for the Blind Transition Center

Mesa, Arizona: Leading the Way as an Inclusive and Accessible Travel Destination

Mesa, Arizona has emerged as a groundbreaking destination, setting new standards for inclusivity and accessibility. With the prestigious title of being the first-ever Autism Certified City in the United States, designated by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), Mesa has established itself as a pioneer in creating a welcoming environment for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Visit Mesa

The efforts behind this remarkable achievement were led by Visit Mesa, the city’s official destination marketing organization. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by travelers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), particularly for families, Visit Mesa initiated a comprehensive program to encourage local hospitality businesses to participate in specialized autism training. The training was specifically designed to equip executives and front-facing service staff with the knowledge and skills needed to better understand ASD and effectively cater to the needs of ASD travelers.

The response from the community has been extraordinary, with nearly 5,000 individuals in Mesa committing to or completing the autism certification. This impressive number reflects the city’s deep-rooted commitment to ensuring that individuals with autism and their families feel supported and valued throughout their visit to Mesa.

To further assist travelers with autism, Visit Mesa provides the Autism Travel Guide, a valuable resource available for download on their website, This guide serves as a comprehensive reference point for families and individuals with autism, providing them with a complete list of Certified Autism Centers in Mesa. By offering this guide, Visit Mesa ensures that families and individuals can confidently plan their trips, knowing that they will receive the necessary support and understanding throughout their visit.

Visit Mesa Summer 2023 Full

Building on their commitment to inclusivity, Mesa has embraced the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program. Originating in the United Kingdom, this globally recognized initiative aims to provide additional support and assistance to travelers with hidden disabilities. By wearing a distinctive lanyard, individuals can discreetly indicate to service representatives in the hospitality industry that they may require extra attention or assistance during their journey. Visit Mesa believes that the implementation of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program is a significant step in extending support to all visitors with disabilities, particularly those on the autism spectrum. “The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program is a wonderful way to support all visitors who have disabilities that are not easily seen, particularly for those on the spectrum,” states Alison Brooks, Vice President, Destination Experience and Advocacy at Visit Mesa.

Furthermore, Mesa has taken significant strides to enhance accessibility for individuals with visual impairments. The city now offers Aira, an on-demand visual interpretation service that caters to the needs of visually impaired visitors. Prior to their arrival, travelers can download the Aira app on their smartphones and gain access to trained Aira agents who can provide assistance with trip planning. Once within the city limits of Mesa, visitors can utilize this service to navigate public buildings, attractions, restaurants, hotels, and more. The availability of Aira, free and unlimited for use while planning a trip to Mesa or exploring local attractions, demonstrates Mesa’s commitment to ensuring that all visitors, regardless of visual impairments, can fully enjoy and experience everything the city has to offer.

In a strategic partnership, Visit Mesa has joined forces with Wheel the World, a third-party booking engine specializing in accommodations and attractions for people of all abilities. This innovative platform connects visitors to facilities that best suit their individual accessibility needs, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable travel experience. In addition to facilitating bookings, Wheel the World also offers comprehensive and detailed accessibility information, allowing travelers to make informed choices that align with their specific requirements.

To complement these initiatives, Visit Mesa has made comprehensive information readily available on their website to cater to travelers of all abilities. The website showcases virtual tours of many hotels, attractions, and restaurants, providing a unique accessible perspective that includes features such as parking lots, restrooms, and ADA rooms in hotels. This detailed accessibility information empowers travelers to make informed decisions about their accommodations and plan their itineraries accordingly.

The commitment to creating an inclusive and accessible destination extends beyond these individual programs and initiatives. It is ingrained in the culture of Mesa, as evidenced by the city’s ongoing mission to ensure that Mesa, Arizona is regarded as one of the most accessible travel destinations in the nation. Visit Mesa continues to work diligently to expand and enhance their accessibility initiatives, seeking out new ways to accommodate the needs of all travelers. By prioritizing the unique needs of individuals with autism and hidden disabilities, Mesa has not only enhanced the travel experience for those visitors but has also set a shining example for other communities to follow. With each step taken towards accessibility, Mesa brings us closer to a future where travel is truly inclusive, allowing everyone to explore the world and create lasting memories.

Alison Brooks, CATP, is Vice President of Destination Experience and Advocacy at Visit Mesa. For more information, visit


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