St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and St. Johns County Offer Autism Certification Grant Opening May 1

St. Augustine, Fla. – April 25, 2023 – Tourism and hospitality business professionals attended a St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Tourism and Hospitality Council event to inform the community about creating an inclusive environment for all visitors, including those on the autistic spectrum. The Chamber and St. Johns County have a newly launched matching grants program for businesses to become a Certified Autism Destination (CAD).

The grant will help businesses make necessary accommodations and train local public-facing staff to better serve neurodiverse individuals including, but not limited to, guests with autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The certification will make a positive impact and attract more diverse visitors to the area as an inclusive community.

“This is a way to open your tourism and hospitality business to new markets and be better positioned to accommodate guests with neuro differences,” said Isabelle Renault, the Chamber’s President & CEO. “With one in 36 children diagnosed with autism, the certification will also benefit our local families. We are pleased to partner with the County to provide the matching grants on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said.

The informative event was held on April 20 at Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine with a breakfast sponsored by Historic Tours of America. The presentations served as a prelude to the May 1 launch for online grant applications at

Speakers included Meredith Tekin, President of the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), the certification provider for the Autism Certification Initiative. Also speaking was Tera Meeks, Tourism and Cultural Development Director for St. Johns County. The free meeting was open to any tourism and hospitality business owner or employee.

Tekin helps IBCCES to further its mission of improving the lives of individuals with autism and cognitive differences. She has shared the impact of IBCCES work at many international and domestic industry conferences and is a key liaison for IBCCES partners. According to Tekin, by providing training and certification to professionals in healthcare, education, hospitality, travel, recreation, public safety, and corporate spaces, innumerous individuals and communities those professionals serve can thrive. She may be reached at (877) 717-6543 or by email Visit the website at

Meeks has served as the Director of Tourism and Cultural Events for St. Johns County with prior experience working for the City of Jacksonville Parks Department, Florida Fish and Wildlife, the Florida Park Service, and as a private environmental consultant. Through her office, the new grant opportunity is a collaboration available to St. Johns County tourism and hospitality businesses. She may be reached at (904) 209-4420 or by email Visit the website at

“St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to opportunities and grants for members and the community. We strive to educate business owners and employees about many topics within our region and outside of St. Johns County. With this grant opportunity, the Chamber and St. Johns County will better serve a diverse group of people,” said Renault. For more information about the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, visit or call 904.829.5681.