Nonprofit group that helps disabled to close its doors
Accessible San Diego has been around for 25 years
Last Updated: 51 days ago
SAN DIEGO - An organization that is aimed at helping disabled travelers is set to close its doors after 25 years in San Diego.
Accessible San Diego says promises under then-Mayor Bob Filner's administration were not fulfilled and it is running out of money.
Nikki Warren knows the importance of helping the disabled. She is blind. She uses Corral, her guide dog, and a talking computer to help her on a day-to-day basis. It is a bigger challenge when she travels.
"People with disabilities need specific information," Warren said.
Warren worked at Accessible San Diego. The organization is a travel resource center that provided services, such as travel guides. It also pushed for wheelchairs that those with disabilities could use on the beach.
Wes Johnson, the co-founder and president of the organization, became a paraplegic during an accident in the Navy. He noticed right away that accessibility was a challenge.
"19 percent of the U.S. population has disabilities. It's the largest minority," Johnson said.
Now, the organization has a funding problem. A big portion of the organization's money came from the Tourism Marketing District. $75,000 came in fiscal year 2012, but this year, Accessible San Diego received nothing.
Its last chance was free retail space for nonprofit groups. Johnson said then-Mayor Filner’s office promised them help. Then, the Filner scandal erupted and promises were not fulfilled.
"They had not given us a clear answer," Johnson said, referring to when he asked the current administration about the assistance in funding. "They just said that that funding was not going to be provided and the office space was not going to be provided."
Jim Barwick, who is in charge of the city's real estate assets, said there is a program that offers free space for nonprofit organizations if the organization is in city-owned property. The building that houses Accessible San Diego's headquarters on C Street is not. Barwick said they asked the city attorney's office for guidance on this issue, which gave the legal opinion that they could not pay a third party to house a nonprofit group.
10News also questioned Johnson about its previous tax filings. Records show in 2010, nearly $178,000 of about $200,000 of the group's funding went to employees' salaries.
Johnson said the salaries did not play a role in the group's current financial crisis. He said the salaries were divided among five employees.
"Our very limited money is showed toward the employees who run the program ... It's been two years since that number was there," Johnson said.
The executive director for the Tourism Marketing District said that while the organization provides a good service, it did not fit under stricter criteria for funding.
Accessible San Diego is set to close its doors at the end of October.
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