Community Commentary

Continuing the work to bring cities into ADA compliance

Imagine spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week without the ability to see. 

Now, imagine trying to get around the city of Carlsbad — crossing streets, avoiding bumps in sidewalks, wondering if you’re going to miss a step and fall down.

It’s laudable that Carlsbad’s elected officials are bringing this city into greater compliance with the ADA’s evolving standards. We were encouraged to see The Coast News report on their approval of the framework of the ADA Transition Plan for Public Rights of Way. On behalf of the San Diego Center for the Blind’s tens of thousands of clients, we’re eternally grateful for their efforts to make Carlsbad a safer and friendlier place.

Now, we call upon those same council members to keep this process moving forward. A framework is an excellent start, but making this dream a reality will take quick action and strong leadership.

The city’s research process has taken three years, and will culminate this summer when the council meets to decide whether to fund the work. We urge officials to finalize their list of essential construction locations and secure the funds to start these projects. Moreover, some of these improvements should be among the city’s top priorities to ensure the safety of residents and visitors with vision loss — and those with any disability that makes navigating Carlsbad more difficult.

People suffering from total blindness and limited vision don’t ask for much. They’re seeking independence, the freedom to enjoy the community no differently than people with 20/20 vision.

That’s a major part of our mission at the Center for the Blind. Our clients learn the skills they need to lead fulfilling and productive lives. We teach people to cook, to use revolutionary new computer technology, even ways to pay with cash when they can’t see the bills. Once they graduate, our clients can do anything a sighted person can do — except for driving a car!

Even with all of that training, daily life becomes significantly more difficult when “walk” signals on streetlights don’t make sounds, or when intersections don’t have lowered curbs to give easier access to sidewalks. When it’s tough to find a public bench, or any place to stop safely and relax, the ability to frequent local businesses and participate in community activities is greatly reduced. Worse, the perils of going outside can become overwhelming and people retreat to their homes, sometimes becoming shut-ins. This is an avoidable tragedy, and Carlsbad’s leaders can make sure it doesn’t happen in their city.

We look forward to continuing our work with the city of Carlsbad and making this great community a place where everyone — regardless of their vision capabilities — can contribute to the local economy and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

To contact Gibbens or learn more about the Center, visit

Kim Gibbens is the CEO of the San Diego Center for the Blind.