The Disability Symbol Finally Gets a Makeover

By | 2017-01-13T20:42:23+00:00 July 17th, 2014|
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1374184769The classic blue wheelchair guy is the main disability symbol people use to refer to all things accessible. Sure it works, it’s adequate … but it has its drawbacks — namely, it was created in 1968. The disability community has changed by leaps and bounds since the ’60s, and advocates have been salivating at the chance to finally give our wheelchair guy a long overdue makeover.

And now it’s happened, thanks to the Accessible Icon Project. The Massachusetts-based  nonprofit decided to create a brand new disability symbol for use throughout the U.S., and possibly other countries around the world as well. It’s a completely free-use symbol, and was created by two nondisabled individuals from Boston in 2012.

One of the individuals is a former graffiti artist and the other is a designer and activist. What they’ve done is put a positive spin on a symbol to represent a population that is usually perceived as weak. How did they do this? Simply by changing the angles of how the person in the symbol is sitting in the wheelchair.

Traditionally, the icon we all know is very vertical and straight; flat even. The new icon is all about movement, as if the wheelchair user is in motion, leaning forward, pushing their chair and living an active life. This is the feeling that designers hope people will subconsciously feel when they view this new version of the disability symbol.

Signage for disability access is mainly a state-by-state affair, with each state having its own set of rules regarding how accessible features should be handled. Some use “disability blue” on all of the crosshatch and symbols painted in parking spots, while other states meanwhile don’t require that at all.

Hopefully this icon will take off, and it looks like it’s already on its way as New York City is the first big city to adopt it and Merriam, Kansas, is the first Midwest city to use this new symbol. Hopefully it will soon be joined by bigger cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas. If that happens, it will guaranteed spread like wildfire across the rest of the country — all the way to California, let’s hope.

Soon we will see it everywhere, from marking parking spots to maybe even signs on buildings. Signs on buildings aren’t required by the feds, but many cities use them anyways, so let’s hope this new icon will go on the buildings, too. So flossy!

But what does this massive change of this symbol mean? We’re changing, society is changing, and it’s all because people disabilities are living more active and independent lives than ever before. 2014 is definitely a great time to be alive if you have a disability.

We sure have come a long way baby, and this upgraded symbol is a great way to exemplify that, especially to a society that sometimes needs a refresher course on how far we’ve come.

Do you like the new disability symbol?

– Learn more: The Accessible Icon Project