Investigative child | photo courtesy of ZooMontana
ZooMontana Now a Certified Autism Center™
September 15, 2022
ZooMontana Media Release
On Thursday, September 15, ZooMontana announced via media release its newly awarded designation as a Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Such designations are granted to organizations that complete training and certification to better understand and welcome autistic or sensory-sensitive visitors and their families. IBCCES will also conduct an onsite review to provide additional ways the Zoo can accommodate visitors and create detailed sensory guides for each exhibit as part of the certification process.
“ZooMontana is for everyone. We want to ensure all guests that visit have a safe and enjoyable time, no matter their background. Becoming a Certified Autism Center™ allows us to show the proof in the pudding,” shared Jeff Ewelt, Executive Director of ZooMontana. “We see you, and we include you. We are dedicated to creating a space all will remember, learn and enjoy their family time.”
In completing the CAC program, ZooMontana joins a larger Billings initiative to achieve the Certified Autism Destination designation. An an initiative being spearheaded by Visit Billings in an effort to attract new visitors to Billings and ensure there are a variety of autism-certified options in the areas of lodging, recreation, and entertainment.
Visit Billings is supporting partners to become certified locations including Boothill Inn & Suites, Billings Depot, and ZooMontana.
"IBCCES is thrilled to see the Certified Autism Destination Initiative in the Billings area growing. As more autistic travelers and their families look for locations where they will feel welcomed and understood, Billings has been hard at work to build a more inclusive destination – something everyone should be striving toward,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman.
In addition to the certification process, the Zoo also offers other supports and options for visitors, including quiet areas to step away and be immersed in nature and plans to have sensory bags for those who may experience sensory overload, as well as offering several low-sensory evenings in the summer of 2023.
For more than 20 years, IBCCES has been the leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for healthcare, education, and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES created programs specifically for the hospitality and recreational organizations such as hotels, theme parks, and other attractions so staff would be more knowledgeable and other accommodations offered to this growing, but underserved, part of the community. IBCCES is the only credentialing board offering these types of programs, which include training from subject matter experts and autistic self-advocates, as well as long-term support and continuous learning, onsite reviews, and more. 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 the Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements.
To learn more about joining the Visit Billings Certified Autism Destination movement please reach out to Alex Tyson at Alex@visitbillings.com.
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