Visalia one step closer to becoming Certified Autism Destination

Visalia adds five additional Certified Autism Centers to its list, taking Visalia one step closer to meeting their goal of putting Visalia on the map as a Certified Autism Destination

VISALIA– By adding five additional designated Certified Autism Centers to the list, Visalia only needs one additional business certification to qualify as a Certified Autism Destination.

Visit Visalia announces the addition of two Visalia hotels and three local attractions as Certified Autism Centers (CAC) by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). In order to qualify as a CAC, facilities and organizations must have at least 80% of their staff trained and fully equipped to serve individuals with autism.

This addition makes for a total of twelve organizations in Visalia that meet CAC requirements, but is not enough to classify Visalia as a Certified Autism Destination (CAD).  According to Suzanne Bianco, Tourism Marketing Director with Visit Visalia, Visalia only needs one additional business to be certified. Visit Visalia is currently in the process of working with one final business that would allow them to achieve their goal.

The CAD designation is awarded to destinations where key community areas like hotels, museums, attractions, entertainment venues and other tourism organizations are trained and certified to serve autistic individuals and those with other sensory disorders. Even without being a CAD, the addition of five more businesses allows Visalia visitors with autism to have a broader selection of businesses and hotels to choose from.

“We are so excited for travelers to have the ability to choose just the right hotel and attractions for their family from our growing list of Certified Autism Centers,” John Onteo, interim executive director of Visit Visalia, said. “What started as a grassroots program to have one or two of our local hotels become CACs, has grown into a citywide initiative embraced by our community of tourism-based businesses.”

The five new Certified Autism Centers that were added to Visalia’s list are the Wyndham Visalia Hotel, Lamp Liter Inn, Visalia Adventure Park, ImagineU Children’s Museum and Arts Visalia.

Michelle Goans, gallery director for Visalia Arts, said she is grateful to have an opportunity to make the gallery a safe haven for individuals in the autism community.

“It’s really important because we always want to be inclusive,” Goans said. “Those who are part of the autism community are part of our community, and we want to make sure that they are included in what is happening in Visalia and in the area.”

Samantha Rummage-Mathias, Visalia Wyndham’s general manager, said this certification allows the hotel to offer better service to any type of guest visiting Visalia. She also said she had some experience prior to CAC training as a certified autism travel professional (CATP).

“When I went through that [CATP] training, it was such an eye opener on how more people need to understand people on the spectrum,” Rummage-Mathias said. 

Visit Visalia is working with IBCCS, a global leader in online training and certification programs, to provide training to partner businesses. The tools given and knowledge gained give the teams at these sites to provide better service and experiences to all visitors. 

IBCCES created to serve as a free resource for families looking for trained and certified travel options. 

All organizations listed on the site, like, have met the CAC requirements.

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