One of the first things you’ll likely notice upon visiting my blog is the prominently featured symbol of a person using a wheelchair in the top left corner next to the title, surrounded by a purple and blue decoupaged background. Countless people have gotten quite excited about it, mentioning to me that they find this symbol to be much better than the symbol usually found on parking permits, accessible entrances, and the like. I’m a huge fan, too, so I’d love to share a bit with all of you about how this updated version of the wheelchair icon has sparked the Accessible Icon Project, an incredible movement towards changing cultural perceptions of disabilities.
The current icon we’ve all come to equate with access has always seemed to me to indicate stagnation, as though disability somehow precludes a person from the very nature of what it means to be alive – always moving forward. In reality, the disability community is anything but still; we’re all living our lives and seeking progress in disability rights. It’s fitting, then, that this new Accessible Icon captures action.
What is the Accessible Icon Project?
Developed by Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney, the spread of this powerful icon began as a guerrilla art project in which the creators overlaid their newly designed International Symbol of Access (ISA) on top of the standard one. It has since grown into a continually expanding global initiative, overseen by Triangle, a non-profit for the disability community located in Malden, Massachusetts.
Why I Support the Accessible Icon Project
Just as the Accessible Icon Project started to gain momentum, I was lucky enough to happen upon their website and found myself immediately captivated by the image before me. As someone who is disabled and values personal empowerment, I strongly identified with the icon. Most important to me is the icon’s display of self-propelled forward movement, conveying full engagement and taking charge over your own life.
While I support the Accessible Icon, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that I’ve encountered some people who have expressed that using a person in a wheelchair as an ISA implies that the only kind of disabilities out there are mobility-related. And while I understand such concerns, I’m still completely behind the Accessible Icon Project because they directly address on their website that exclusionary representation is in no way the intent behind the initiative: “The symbol does not ‘represent’ people with disabilities, but symbolizes the idea that all people with disabilities can be active and engaged in their lived environment. Our active accessibility symbol helps re-imagine how society and individuals view people with disabilities.” It is this message that the disability community can be empowered members of society that makes increasing the reach of the Accessible Icon so important.
We cannot sit back and take a passive approach to influencing a globally-embraced positive view of the disability community. As language and perceptions surrounding disabilities change, so too should associated imagery continue to evolve. There is much progress to be made by moving forward with the Accessible Icon Project!
What do you think of the Accessible Icon? Want to get involved in spreading the word?