The iconic wheelchair rolls forward

accessibility icon copyThe Chronicle of Higher Education reports that New York City has become the first major municipality to adopt the new active symbol of accessibility, which Contrarian first wrote about in September, 2011.

The result of a collaboration between Sara Hendren, graduate student at the Harvard School of Design, and Brian Glenney, philosophy professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, the revised icon recasts the passive, static International Symbol of Accessibility (demeaningly known as the “handicapped sign”), investing it with vigor and a sense of motion. The Chronicle reports:

New York, in a move that could spark similar updates worldwide, has now agreed to use a Gordon-inspired logo that shows the stick figure with active arms, leaning forward, a participant rather than a dependent.

“It’s such a forward-moving thing,” said Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities, who plans this summer to begin putting the new logo all over the nation’s largest city.

Memo to Mayors Cecil Clarke and Mike Savage:  Which of your cities will seize the honor of becoming the first Canadian municipality to adopt the active symbol for its wheelchair-using citizens?

From the Accessible Icon Project blog, a fuller explanation of how the revised icon reflects the reality of wheelchairs and the people who use them:

accessibility icon - annotated copy

1.  Head Position:  Head is forward to indicate the forward motion of the person through space. Here the person is the “driver” or decision maker about her mobility.

2.  Arm Angle:  Arm is pointing backward to suggest the dynamic mobility of a chair user, regardless of whether or not she uses her arms. Depicting the body in motion represents the symbolically active status of navigating the world.

3.  Wheel Cutouts:  By including white angled knockouts the symbol presents the wheel as being in motion. These knockouts also work for creating stencils used in spray paint application of the icon. Having just one version of the logo keeps things more consistent and allows viewers to more clearly understand intended message.

4.  Limb Rendition:  The human depiction in this icon is consistent with other body representations found in the ISO 7001 – DOT Pictograms. Using a different portrayal of the human body would clash with these established and widely used icons and could lead to confusion.

5.  Leg Position:  The leg has been moved forward to allow for more space between it and the wheel which allows for better readability and cleaner application of icon as a stencil.

H/T:  The James MacGregor Stewart Society.

More information about the Accessibility Icon project on Facebook, on Twitter, on the project’s blog, and Sara Hendren’s Ablersite blog.