~Destination Welcomes new Certified Autism Centers During Autism Awareness Month~ 


(GREATER PALM SPRINGS, CA)  In 2022, Visit Greater Palm Springs (VGPS) became a Certified Autism Center™ (CAC), a designation granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). The CAC designation is awarded to organizations that have completed autism training to better understand and welcome autistic visitors and their families. The CAC designation was the first step in a movement to make the greater Palm Springs area a Certified Autism Destination (CAD). 


Since that time, Visit Greater Palm Springs has been working with IBCCES to involve key tourism, hospitality, government, and recreation organizations in the community to achieve this goal to attract more visitors while ensuring inclusive options are available. 


“Visit Greater Palm Springs’s recognition as a Certified Autism Center™ in 2022 was an important first step in preparing our tourism and community partners to provide the best possible experience for our autistic travelers and their families,” said Scott White, President and CEO of Visit Greater Palm Springs. “As we recognize Autism Awareness Month, we are honored to add to the ever-growing list of Certified Autism Centers and encourage our partners in the local tourism community to join us in serving this very important group of travelers. 


VGPS is proud to announce the following organizations have now earned their CAC designation: 


Allen Monroe, President & CEO of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens commented: 

“The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is proud to be a Certified Autism Center™ deepening our commitment to provide a best day ever experience for all of our guests. The team is dedicated to ensuring all of our guests, including those with autism or sensory needs, have equal opportunities and accessibility to participate in memorable, engaging, and inclusive experiences here at The Living Desert.” 


Aaron Espinoza, Director of the Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory commented:  

“The Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory wants all patrons, residents, and visitors to feel welcomed. Our staff is appreciative to become an Autism Certified location, whether to pick up a book, attend a program or gaze at the stars at our Observatory, we look forward to serving you.” 


Additionally, the following organizations are in the process of completing their training to earn CAC designation: 


Cindy Burreson, Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert commented:  

“Reopening as a Certified Autism Center shows our visitors with neurodiversity and their families that we care about them and have created a place where they can have the most enjoyable experience at the Museum as possible. By having tools like sensory bags, a low-sensory room, maps that describe the level and types of stimulation of our exhibits and staff that are all trained in sensory sensitivity awareness, we hope that visitors who may not have felt comfortable in a museum environment in the past, will not only feel comfortable, but welcomed and safe. We are grateful to Visit Greater Palm Springs for spearheading and providing this opportunity to Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert and others in the Valley as we believe being a Certified Autism Center Destination shows that our Valley is a leader in providing resources and experiences that welcome all.” 


Heidi Maldoon, Executive Director of Variety - the Children's Charity of the Desert commented: 

"Becoming a designated Certified Autism Center with staff members trained in sensory awareness is an important part of Variety - the Children's Charity of the Desert's program expansion. Through the process of earning a Certified Autism Center Designation, we are positioning our team to improve how we assist children and parents both during the screening process, and in services and support which follow. This opportunity elevates our ability to serve and support both children with autism and their families at our Palm Desert Resource Center. Through workshops and resources for parents and children navigating their unique experience with autism, we will be better equipped to impact families on their journey. I commend Visit Greater Palm Springs for recognizing this valuable opportunity to be part of a movement of intentional support and inclusion."  


Nusrat Mirza, GM JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa commented: 

"We are constantly evolving to our guests needs to provide a personalized and memorable experience. The CAC training continues this initiative, in preparing our staff to best provide, recognize, accept and assist guests of all interests and needs" 


The focus on ensuring accessibility is important, especially with 1 in 36 children in the US diagnosed with autism (according to the CDC) and 1 in 6 people with sensory needs or sensitivities. Travelers with disabilities take millions of trips every year, but there are few destinations with a variety of options that have taken the extra step cohesively to better understand and enhance accommodations for these visitors. 




About Visit Greater Palm Springs 

Visit Greater Palm Springs (VGPS) is the official destination marketing organization for the nine-city Southern California oasis of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella. Founded in 1989 with a mission to positively affect the destination’s $7.5 billion tourism economy and quality of life for its residents, VGPS provides sales, marketing and PR, and destination development activities to grow visitation from potential leisure travelers and event, meeting and convention group markets.  


Media Contacts 

Todd Burke, VP of Communications 

Phone: 650-391-8091 

Email: todd@visitgreaterps.com 


Joyce Kiehl, Director of Communications 

Phone: 760-969-1338 

Email: joyce@visitgreaterps.com