The Accessible Icon

Elena Noble, MPT | March 2014

international symbol accessibility iconThe Accessible Icon Project developed over the last few years is an attempt to visually demonstrate society’s changing perspectives on disability. The founders of the project saw the old International Symbol of Access as representing passivity - a mechanically seated stick figure which draws more attention to the wheelchair than the person in it. Traditionally, individuals with special needs have been passive recipients of health-care interventions and the disability, (not the person) has been emphasized. But this view is outdated and currently being replaced by more dynamic health models which recognize the capabilities and participation levels of people even with the most severe disabilities.  

The Accessible Icon visually reflects these changes. While still using the blue and white colors and basic constructs of the universally recognized symbol of access, the newer image is now dynamic. Most noticeably, the head of the seated individual is positioned forward and the arm angle has been changed to depict motion indicating that people with disabilities are decision makers and participants in society, their own health and mobility.

The new logo from the Accessible Icon project shows an active person with disabilities demonstrating mobility. The new design, which was created out of a grassroots movement to broadly and visually reflect the changing perspectives on disability, is now on display at the Museum of Modern Art as part of an exhibit called “A Collection of Ideas.” It has also been adopted by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars as well as New York City. This is a great start, but in the long run, the founders of the Accessible Icon Project hope that this new design will continue to spark conversations about accessibility, inclusion and disability rights.

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