A City for All Abilities: USF takes another step to make Tampa autism-friendly
By Gage Sosso, CARD-USF, Staff Assistant
I would like to thank the Tampa Parenting Magazine for allowing me to represent the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) in their March edition. My name is Gage Sosso, and I am a recent graduate of The Learning Academy at the University of South Florida (TLA). TLA is a customized transition program that prepares young adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder for employment.
After graduation, I was hired at CARD into my first real job, and have been going strong here for more than two years now. My stint at CARD has allowed me to indulge in my truest passion: writing. My job is composed of a few primary tasks, chief among them being blog writing and copy editing.
However, that’s enough about me. There’s something more important going on at CARD, and that is the main topic of this piece—the Autism Friendly Business Initiative. Before I sing its praises, I first need to explain exactly what it is. For the past nine years, CARD-USF’s goal has been to build a more welcoming community for citizens of all abilities. By partnering with businesses interested in making a difference in the lives of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and their families, CARD-USF has created positive community experiences.
Most recently, this project caught the eye of the City of Tampa Mayor’s Office. At their request, CARD entered into a collaborative effort to create “Autism Friendly Tampa,” the first major city to achieve this status. From the parks and recreation facilities to the Tampa Police Department and first responders, the goal is to steadily turn the City of Tampa into a place where people of all abilities can feel welcome. The process is very simple; if a business hears about the Autism Friendly initiative, they need only reach out, and CARD will send one of its professionals to train employees on the appropriate ways to interact with both customers and potential employees with autism. All for the exceptional price of: nothing at all. There’s no cost to the business.
Tampa has been incredibly receptive to CARD’s Autism Friendly movement, and we expect it to keep gaining momentum. My excitement goes without saying, but the feedback we’ve received from families has been encouraging. They wrote: “Cooperation with traffic and safety departments for a process to request caution road signs for motorist awareness could potentially save lives.” “The things some people may take for granted, such as dentists’ offices, recreational programs and therapy providers, are critically important to our families.” “With the right people and resources in place, I’m confident the Tampa initiative will have a profoundly positive impact on autistic individuals and their families.”
We could not agree more, and we guarantee to continue the effort to make all of it come true.