Two Ohio Venues Achieve Certified Autism Center Designation
In an effort to become more inclusive, more venues are offering services to accommodate the needs of autistic and sensory-sensitive individuals. In Q4, The Huntington Center and Glass City Center, both located in Toledo, Ohio, were designated as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
The venue teams completed a comprehensive training and certification process to better understand and accommodate the needs of autistic and sensory-sensitive individuals.
Glass City Center offers a 75,000-square-foot expo hall, a 16,000 square-foot ballroom and 26 meeting rooms with advanced technology. Located in downtown Toledo, the $105 million Huntington Center features a 8,000-plus-seat multi-purpose arena.
“We are truly proud to be certified by the global credentialing board IBCCES and have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the organization to become educated on how to better accommodate and assist autistic or sensory-sensitive visitors and their families at our venues,” said Steve Miller, general manager of The Huntington Center and Glass City Center, which are both managed by ASM Global.
Why it matters
By completing the CAC program, The Huntington Center and Glass City Center join the greater Destination Toledo movement to achieve the CAD designation, which IBCCES awards to communities with a multitude of trained and certified lodging, entertainment options and service organizations.
Some of the organizations that have completed the CAC program include Destination Toledo, Avenues for Autism and Wingate by Wyndham Sylvania/Toledo, Boyd’s Retro Candy, Toledo Speedway BMX, Toledo Museum of Art, The Valentine Theatre, Sylvania Chamber of Commerce, National Museum Great Lakes and more, as well as others in the city that are in the process of completion.
Miller added, “Our facilities should be welcoming and comfortable spaces for everyone, and we hope that more venues throughout the city join the Destination Toledo movement to earn this certification so our entire community can host events that are inclusive for all.”
How it works
IBCCES conducted an on-site evaluation of The Huntington Center and Glass City Center, where insights and recommendations were provided to enhance accessibility and serve as a road map to implement ideas into process.
As part of the certification journey, at least 80% of the public-facing staff at the venues were required to undergo training with the goal of being better prepared to provide adequate service and experiences to all. Staff were trained to better understand autism, how to empathize and understand how autistic individuals experience the world, communicate more effectively and be aware of common sensitivities and concerns in a recreational environment.
“We are proud to recognize The Huntington Center and Glass City Center as Certified Autism Centers,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES board chairman. “This designation proves their commitment to creating an inclusive environment and shows their dedication to serving all their guests to their best ability by becoming autism certified. We are thrilled that two of the area’s top venues have joined Toledo in the city-wide effort to become a Certified Autism Destination.”
IBCCES also created AutismTravel.com, a free online resource that lists certified destinations and connects families to other resources and each other. Each destination listed on the site has met the CAC requirements.
With a portfolio of more than 350 arenas, stadiums, exhibition centers and performing arts venues, ASM Global features a growing number of venues in its worldwide portfolio that have received similar sensory certifications, including INTRUST Bank Arena, Brookshire Grocery Arena, Smoothie King Center and Caesars Superdome — among others.
Through a partnership with KultureCity, several ASM Global facilities — such as Paycom Center, Oakland Arena, State Farm Stadium and Greater Columbus Convention Center — are designated as sensory friendly, with guest sensory rooms that have become a permanent addition to the venues.
We caught up with Miller to find out more about what motivated the venues to earn the autism designation, the response from organizers and how its impacting events.
Have you used the training yet for an event or trade show in the buildings?
We have a quiet room that we use in both our convention center and arena that has become popular. We also have noise-canceling headphones that can be checked out for events. All staff, including part-time seasonal staff, have completed online training to assist with guests with autism and know how to handle the situation when it arises.
What motivated you to get the designation?
We want to be welcoming to individuals who attend events in our buildings. Our goal is to not only have our buildings certified but also the attractions in Toledo certified for this designation, which is being let by Destination Toledo. We believe this will increase our business in the long run.
What’s been the response from event planners?
We are looking for ways to separate our facilities from the competition and this is just another tool in the toolbox to help us compete. This designation is pretty new, but event planners have been receptive that we will welcome everyone to our facilities.