The New Accessible Icon

Jul 19, 2013
Tagged with: The New Accessible Icon


There’s a new icon on the streets.  Check out the changes from the 1968 Universal Accessibility Icon.  Compare the head position, the legs, and the arms.

I showed the new accessible icon to three people who use wheelchairs and got three very different reactions to it.

Person One: 

Oh, I like it.  It does look more active.  I like how the head is leaning forward.

Person Two: 

Well, the thing is that not everyone with a disability uses a wheelchair.  I think the signs should just be blue – so when someone who can walk gets out of a vehicle, people don’t yell at them only to find out that the person has arthritis or MS or Parkinson’s or another condition and that is why they are using accessible parking.

Person Three: 

I don’t really care.

Co-Founders, Sara Hendren who designed the new accessible icon, and Brian Glenney, PhD, a philosophy professor at Gordon College, write at their website, “As people with disabilities of all kinds—not just chair users—create greater rights and opportunities for social, political, and cultural participation, we think cities should evolve their images of accessibility too.  We think visual representation matters.”

I wrote Brian and asked him what are the obstacles you are facing?

“We are still focused on getting the word out and constructing a narrative that clearly describes our project.  It is not about creating a new symbol.  It is about a new way of thinking about how society treats people with disabilities,” he replied.

To the question, what’s the big dream?

Brian wrote, “On the surface, it would be nice to have our symbol adopted internationally and used throughout the world.  But the deeper dream, the real purpose, is to have an international intervention regarding the de-humanization and disenfranchisement of people with disabilities.  I’m not saying that our symbol alone can do that, but our symbol is a place for people to start thinking about their own pre-conceptions and stigmitization of people with disabilities and to become activated advocates.”

What do you think?

Can an icon change our minds?


Accessible Icon courtesy from

Author: Elizabeth Vander Kamp

  • Gordon H

    Love the dynamics of the gesture!

  • Lori Nichols


  • Phil VK

    I agree with your second responder. Disabilities come in many forms, not always in a wheelchair. The symbol still characterizes what a disabled person looks like.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Phil, Thank you – what a great insight.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Gordon, Yes! The dynamics say a lot! Thank you for your comment.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Lori, Yes! Bravo! I hope you can check out Brian’s bio – he is a graffiti artist! How fun is that!

  • Glenney

    Thanks person 2, et. al. I also wish that a more inclusive symbol were possible, but the ADA requires “equivalent facilitation” for all ISA designs. In other words, we wouldn’t be going anywhere without a wheel. More FAQs, see

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Glenney, thank you for sharing the ablersite info and your comment. Here’s to continued progress!

  • bobl07

    Hi Glenney, Thank you for the informative perspective. I would like to follow up on this topic with you. Could you please email me at I look forward to hearing from you.