International Symbol of Access
The International Symbol of Access (ISA), also known as the (International) Wheelchair Symbol, consists of a blue square overlaid in white with a stylized image of a wheelchair. It is maintained as an international standard, ISO 7001, and a copyrighted image of the International Commission on Technology and Accessibility (ICTA), a committee of Rehabilitation International. It was designed by Susanne Koefoed in 1968. The design was modified by Karl Montan. Taking the original copy of the design, he added a circle to the top of the seat to give the impression of a seated figure.
The symbol is often seen where access has been improved, particularly for wheelchair users, but also for other disability issues. Frequently, the symbol denotes the removal of environmental barriers, such as steps, to help also older people, parents with baby carriages, and travellers. Universal design aims to obviate the need for such symbols by creating products and facilities that are accessible to nearly all users from the start. The wheelchair symbol is "International" and therefore not accompanied by Braille in any particular language.
Specific uses of the ISA include:
- Marking a parking space reserved for vehicles used by disabled people/blue badge holders
- Marking a vehicle used by a disabled person, often for permission to use a space
- Marking a public lavatory with facilities designed for wheelchair users
- Indicating a button to activate an automatic door
- Indicating an accessible transit station or vehicle
- Indicating a transit route that uses accessible vehicles
Building codes such as the California Building Code, require "a white figure on a blue background. The blue shall be equal to Color No. 15090 in Federal Standard 595B."
Modified ISA (not approved by the U.S. Access Board)
Some disability activists are advocating for an updated access symbol. Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney co-founded the Accessible Icon project, designing the new icon to display an active, engaged image with focus on the person with disability. Some disability organizations such as Enabling Unit in India are promoting it, while other disability organizations like Second Thoughts Connecticut reject it as ableist. This version of the symbol officially used in the U.S. state of New York. The Modified ISA is in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern Art.
In May 2015, the Federal Highway Administration rejected the new design for use on signs in the United States, citing the fact that it has not been adopted or endorsed by the U.S. Access Board, the agency responsible for developing the federal criteria for accessible design. The International Standards Organization, which established the regular use of the original symbol under ISO 7001, has also rejected the new design.
Features of the Modified ISA
- 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 their mobility.
- Arm Angle – Arm is pointing backward to suggest the dynamic mobility of a chair user, regardless of whether or not they use their arms. Depicting the body in motion represents the symbolically active status of navigating the world.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rehabilitation International – Symbol of Access
- "Ben-Moshe, L. and J. J. W. Powell (2007). Sign of our Times: Revis(it)ing the International Symbol of Access, Disability & Society 22(5): 489–505.". Retrieved 2009-11-22.
- "Powell, J. J. W. and L. Ben-Moshe (2009). The Icons of Access: From Exclusion to Inclusion. Stimulus Respond "icon" issue, Autumn 2009: 90–95." (PDF). Retrieved 2009-11-22.
- "The Unicode Standard, Version 5.0" (PDF). The Unicode Consortium. 2006. p. 211. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
- "WHEELCHAIR SYMBOL (U+267F) Font Support". FileFormat.info. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
- "California Building Code 2010, Section 1117B.5.8". Retrieved 2013-10-13.
- "Wheelchair icon revamped by guerrilla art project". The Boston Globe.
- "Medical Partners I The Accessible Icon Project".
- "Proposal to Change Handicapped Parking Signs Gets Mixed Reaction From Disability Community". CT News Junkie. 23 September 2015.
- Chokshi, Niraj (29 July 2014). "The handicap symbol gets an update — at least in New York state". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
- "Museum of Modern Art".
- "Interpretation Letter 2(09)-111(I)".
- "Medical Partners I The Accessible Icon Project".