Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Access Icon Project: Humanizing International Symbol of Access

The now familiar International Symbol of Access (ISA) was designed by Susanne Koefoed and is a copyrighted image of ICTA, Rehabilitation International. The symbol which is a milestone in disability advocacy is often criticized for being passive. The first modification came in 1994 when Brendan Murphy from Ireland updated the image by pushing the figure’s posture forward and putting the arm behind the body. Still, the symbol was not adopted as many feared that it will violate the American Disability Act.

Sara Hendren is an artist and researcher based in Cambridge, Mass. She runs the Abler web site and writes on adaptive technology. Sara began focusing her attention on issues of accessibility after giving birth to a son with Down syndrome. She started collaborating with Brian Glenney, a philosophy professor at Gordon College on the original wheelchair icon project in early 2009. Their joint effort lead to the Access Icon Project.

Their modified ISA is available on the website www.accessibleicon.org. The Access Icon Project website states:

“Accessible Icon Project provides supplies and services to transform the old International Symbol of Access into an active, engaged image. We think visual representation matters. People with disabilities have a long history of being spoken for, of being rendered passive in decisions about their lives. The old icon, while a milestone in ADA history, displays that passivity: its arms and legs are drawn like mechanical parts, its posture is unnaturally erect, and its entire look is one that make the chair, not the person, important and visible. 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.”

The symbol is gradually finding acceptance. Recently, the Enabling Unit for persons with disabilities at University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), Delhi adopted the new symbol and using it in the accessible parking. The Coordinator of Enabling Unit has also written to Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities in India to replace the static ISA with the new dynamic ISA. The letter is here. He has also requested to Vice Chancellor of University of Delhi to use the new icon if appropriate.

Based on the above little initiatives, the Accessible Icon Project included Enabling Unit, UCMS as medical partner in this great cause of humanizing ISA. We thank Dr Hendren and Dr Glenney for humanizing the symbol and the entire unit of Access Icon Project in their great effort.


No comments:

Post a Comment