Located in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, Mesa, Ariz. has recently been recognized for its high accessibility for travelers with disabilities.
Mesa has a population of just over half a million citizens who are keeping busy with innovations. With a growing number of residents and visitors each year, a greater need has surfaced for accessible services. Mesa became the first American city to be Autism Certified in 2019 and the first U.S. city to adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program, an initiative that provides residents and visitors with the ability to self-identify their disability and communicate that they might require extra help.
The process of becoming America’s first Autism Certified city requires Mesa’s key community stakeholders in healthcare, education, local government, hospitality, leisure and corporate to receive and maintain specialized training. The city is overseen by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). The IBCCES website shares, “Certification is granted to those who have gone above and beyond to make their organization more accessible for individuals with autism and other special needs.”
The city also made available to its residents and visitors an app called Aira with on-demand visual interpretation services. The free app helps people with visual impairments by acting as a virtual visual guide for planning and going on trips. It provides descriptions of the user’s surroundings and aids in finding buildings and attractions within the Mesa city limits.
Visit Mesa, Mesa’s city page for resources and events, recognizes the growing need for accessibility with its CEO and president, Marc Garcia, being the catalyst behind Mesa becoming an Autism Certified city. He also won the first-ever award in the category of accessibility and diversity at the ESTO conference in Los Angeles in 2021, winning a Destiny Award in the special projects category. And he’s right on the target—according to the CDC, 61 million adults and 17%, of children ages three through 17 years are living with a disability in the United States.
For an in-depth look at Mesa’s accessibility accommodations, visitors can visit AccessibleMesa.com. The website gives lists of accessible events, restaurants, places to stay and other things to do.