The International Board of Credentialing and Continued Education Standards (IBCCES) announced today that OdySea Aquarium is the first attraction – and aquarium – in Arizona to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC). The CAC designation, granted by IBCCES, means that visitors and families with children who have autism and other sensory differences can enjoy the best possible experience that caters to their needs. To achieve today’s CAC accreditation, OdySea Aquarium completed the critical training required by IBCCES to recognize the needs of guests on the spectrum and provide necessary facility options for this demographic.
“We know families with children on the autism spectrum often find it challenging when choosing an attraction to visit,” says Greg Charbeneau, Vice President and General Manager at OdySea Aquarium. “Our mission to connect visitors with the wonders of the ocean has no exclusions. We have always made the necessary accommodations to make all guests as comfortable as possible – on every visit. This certification was a natural step for us as we continue to provide safe, engaging and memorable experiences for all of our guests.”
OdySea Aquarium, located in Scottsdale, AZ, is a multi-level, state-of-the-art facility featuring more than 65 exhibits and 370 species of animals. OdySea Aquarium, which innately is a wonderful destination for its calming environment, subtle water exhibits and serenity, has continuously been proactive in its approach to welcome visitors with sensory disabilities.
Prior to the CAC accreditation, OdySea Aquarium became PAL certified, hosted autism awareness days, offered a quiet room for guests who needed a break from the Aquarium floor, and, as a Pal Place, featured a special video on its website, as well as digital guides and on-site resources, for families with children with non-visible disabilities. The helpful video follows a child with autism and his family as they travel through each area of the Aquarium, allowing others to know exactly what to expect on a visit. Guests with special needs are encouraged to request help to make their visit more enjoyable. Today’s CAC certification solidifies OdySea Aquarium’s commitment to making the facility as family friendly as possible for everyone.
For 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in autism training and certification for healthcare professionals and educators around the globe. IBCCES recognized that many families with children who have special needs have limited travel options. In response to this need, IBCCES created training and certification programs specifically for the hospitality and travel industry. While many destinations tout “autism-friendly” options, this phrase is a generic term that does not necessarily indicate a true understanding of these families’ requirements. More parents are seeking destinations that have completed research-based training and professional review as they review travel options.
While research shows that travel and new experiences are some of the most intellectually stimulating events for individuals on the autism spectrum, there are still few trained and certified options for parents looking for destinations and attractions able to accommodate their needs. Organizations like IBCCES and industry leaders such as OdySea Aquarium are working to change that.
“Our goal is to partner with the leading organizations around the world to create safe, sensory-compatible options for parents and individuals on the spectrum. Our Certified Autism Center designation is awarded to organizations that are taking that extra step to ensure they are welcoming and accommodating for all guests, no matter their needs,” says Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.
IBCCES also created AutismTravel.com, 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.