A new initiative launched by our local tourism marketing agency could encourage Palm Beach County attractions and venues to be more accessible for residents and visitors.
Discover The Palm Beaches announced in a news release this week that it has put in place an accessibility program that will help Palm Beach County welcome all travelers.
To do this, Discover The Palm Beaches is working with groups like the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, Wheel the World and Travelability on training and partnerships.
First up: Discover The Palm Beaches has been named a Certified Autism Center by the IBCCES, a designation granted to organizations when they complete training and certifications on autism-specific issues “to ensure all families with autism or other sensory-sensitivities are understood and properly accommodated,” the news release said.
“We thought, what better way for our organization to become certified first and to dig our heels in and really get into this than for our staff to become certified?” said Lindsey Wiegmann, public relations director for Discover The Palm Beaches.
This is great news, not just for those who want to come to Palm Beach County but for those of us who live here. More accessibility means more opportunities for everyone to enjoy all that this county has to offer.
Discover already has an accessibility guide on its website. (Click here to access that.) The site has a list of accessible experiences, with details on what visitors can expect when going to each one. There also is a list of accessibility resources, and past stories on accessible travel to the Palm Beaches.
Starting in October – the beginning of the next fiscal year for Discover – the organization will move into the second phase of its accessibility program, where it will begin working more with local partners, attractions and venues to train on issues of importance to people with autism and sensory sensitivities, as well as accessibility for all travelers.
That’s a huge deal. I speak from experience.
My son has autism, and both my sister and mother use wheelchairs or scooters when they travel. My mom has been in a wheelchair or scooter when we travel since I was in high school. Going back to our days of family trips to NASCAR races, we all kind of became experts in dealing with the challenges we inevitably faced. (Like drunk people randomly sitting my mom’s lap. Come on, America.)
Casey, our son, is 4, and we’ve done a bit of traveling, but it can be difficult to spend the night in an unfamiliar place. We have a very specific routine that we follow for bedtime when we’re at home, and diverting from this routine or not having specific things in place can be very disruptive.
Knowing there are venues and organizations working to provide proper training to staff and ensuring accessibility for everyone is incredibly meaningful.
“The Palm Beaches prides itself on being a warm and welcoming destination for all,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches. “Becoming an Autism Certified Center is just one way to showcase our commitment to learning and evolving to better serve this travel sector. We look forward to expanding this certification to our partners and improving the options for sensory-sensitive travelers in The Palm Beaches.”
It was also heartening to hear from Wiegmann that more than 80% of Discover’s staff voluntarily completed the necessary training to become a Certified Autism Center. That was done through the IBCCES, with a variety of training courses, quizzes, videos and more, she said.
“We were very excited to see such wide participation and completion of these trainings,” she said. “We’re setting the stage for making this a real commitment with our destination, and we’re excited to take it to phase two.”
Discover also is working with Wheel the World, a service similar to Expedia that focuses on accessible destinations. Wheel the World is currently assessing 30 of Discover’s partner venues and attractions, Wiegmann said. Once completed, those listings will be added to Wheel the World’s travel service.
“We’re always looking to be a welcoming destination for all, and this is just a piece of that,” she said. “I think taking on things like this really, really helps to achieve that goal.”
Accessibility travel resources
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