You have certainly seen one of the above access symbols but chances are, you have not understood what it really means. Even more, you likely don’t know why it has changed. In fact, the ‘International Symbol of Access’ has an interesting history (and future) tied in with design and activism.
This symbol is meant to identify accessible facilities, ranging across a spectra of disability. It’s power is in its ability to communicate to people of different cultures and languages. This makes the symbol a paragon of design. The design is rather simple. It consists of a blue square overlaid in white with a stylised image of a person in a wheelchair.
However, the design was not perfect. What it gained through simplicity is the complexity of access. There are wide variety of different forms of disability and some are not physically notable. Therefore, the person on the wheelchair is misleading. Even worse, is the perception it creates. It helps build a negative stigma about people that require access-friendly environments. As disability activists around the world came to realise, the sign needed to change. Ironically, this symbol was itself not accessible.
Making Access Universal
The Accessible Icon Project, operated by people with disabilities and their allies, took to the task and designed a new icon to help change perceptions disability and transform the design of the symbol – pictured right.
Find Out More
But there’s more. Adrian Treharne from TED-Ed explains that ‘Some of the world’s most recognizable symbols exist to sell products. Others, to steer traffic or advance political causes. But there’s one whose main purpose is to help people. You may know it as the wheelchair symbol, but its formal title is the International Symbol of Access. But what does the symbol actually mean? And what is its purpose? Watch the TED-Ed video explaining this symbol:
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