New York City adopts new International Symbol of Accessibility

The new International Symbol of Accessibility replaces the old, static "disabled" icon, which depicted a rather static, object-like disabled person in a wheelchair -- the new ISA shows a person zooming dynamically in a wheelchair instead. It's been officially adopted in NYC:

After several years of petitioning for change, designers from Gordon College in Massachusetts have come up with an alternative to the traditional stick figure sitting back in a wheelchair.

Their new character is dynamic, leaning forward with its arms at the ready.

"It's such a forward-moving thing," Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York mayor's Office for People With Disabilities, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Calise, who himself was paralyzed in a cycling accident at the age of 22, plans to begin putting the new logo in place all over New York City this summer.

Revamped disability icons coming to New York City (Thanks, Matthew!)



      1. That is disappointing. I bet if the NRA switched all ammo/caliber measurements to metric, we could get some change. They seem to be in power.

      1. I’m not in a wheelchair, so I know I don’t get or deserve a vote, but that’s kind of what I thought too.

  1. But will this bring a commitment to accessibility?

    Maybe we could use different symbols for different aspects of accessibility and exclusion: for blind people, for deaf people, for dyspraxic people, for epileptic people, for sensory defensive people, etc.

    1. Or how about we actually take real steps to ensure people can get around and live in non-metropolitan areas by getting a non-crap public transit system?

      We fix that suddenly you have a crapton of people able to get to and from work that wouldn’t without begging/bumming rides.

  2. This is universally a good thing. 

    The second wheel behind the front is not, should be removed for legibility.

    1. Yes, it makes absolutely no sense in terms of consistent design (or “Formsprache” to introduce the appropriate German term for lack of an English one).

        1. I think it doesn´t really convey the same meaning as Formsprache, which means “form language”. Maybe that´s actually a term that can be used in English. I´m not sure, it doesn´t seem to have the same meaning in the context of design as the German word does.

          1. Close, but doesn’t convey the same sense – semiotics is much broader than “Formsprache”.  “Iconography” is also close, but too narrow – it doesn’t convey the sense of graphic design consistency.

    2. No, it does make visual sense.

      The person in the wheelchair has clearly been pushed away from us.

    3.  I agree. Are they going so fast they’re leaving a speed blur? Is the wheel facing away from the viewer twice as large? Do the wheels have monster truck tires around them? The logo is fine, but the extra circle looks out of place.

      1. I was gonna say poppin’ a wheely.

        Replacing 1000s of signs with a kinder gentler image is a sweet gesture and all, but concrete efforts to make the city more accessible for the physically challenged would be a better use of those tax dollars.

  3. The idea sounds reasonable, but the actual design is a lot busier and less clear than the standard design in use.

    And while I understand that they think it means “people with disabilities can still be really active!” it also kind of says “this parking space is for cool, mediagenic disabled people who used to be athletes and then were in an accident but still compete in alternative sports, not for all those other chumps with a slightly different disability”.

    1. Yes it would be nice to have had the old design in the article to compare, but this one is harder to decipher, for me, as well. For people who are visually disabled, such as the elderly, this would seem to be less accessible.

  4. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the logo for the Paralyzed Veterans of America…

  5. To me, the second wheel makes it look like its falling/fallen over to me. It is still readable as something wheelchair-related, though, but I agree that it looks a bit over-dynamic. I realise the need for people with a handicap to assert themselves, but outside the world of sports, most pictographics are fairly placid: People are walking or standing, not running.

  6. Agreed! Falling over and tumbling out of the chair. My brother’s wheelchair only looks like this when something very very bad is happening.
    There was something kind of stately about the old symbol.

  7. I’m all for updating that symbol, but that double wheel thing is so bizarre. This one is much better, and is freely available:

    1. I think that is actually the icon for the episode when Dwight is working at his desk on that exercise ball and Jim stabs it with scissors.

  8. When a sign has to be explained before it can be comprehended it has failed as a sign. Personally, it did not look like a person in a wheelchair at all.

    1. I agree completely. It looks like the person on the sign is careening over one of the cities fine pot holes.

  9. Also puzzled by the double-wheel thing. It doesn’t even really imply forward motion.

  10. I still want to know why public restrooms are segregated for people wearing capes and people not wearing capes.

      1.  I dunno. I would think you’re either wearing a cape or you aren’t.
        What’s the third option?

  11. It is extremely odd that after all the discussion of a new symbol, they chose a design that is based entirely on a wheelchair user who has full use of his or her arms.  Many do not, including two people in my office.  I’m not sure this will be a pleasant reminder to those folks.

    1. Furthermore, the person appears to be alive, which could be insensitive to the feelings of the dead. What is really needed is an icon of a person who has every “different ability” all at once. Until that day, signage is a form of oppression.

      1. Comparing the feelings of people with disabilities to the feelings of dead people. Not at all a symptom of bias against people with disabilities, right?

  12. I don’t know why we need special parking spaces for people with ion drive propulsion units installed in their asses — they can just fly everywhere! 

    1. And at least one other reason: unlike the old logo and most other variants, this one won’t work as a stencil. Good luck with marking all those parking spaces.

  13. While I enjoy the dynamic element of the new logo, this is the definition of a solution looking for a problem.

  14. I was afraid for a moment, that the actual signs would have such poor anti-aliasing, but clicking through to the main article showing a printed sign has convinced me.  These are pretty great!

  15. That poor person appears to be in the process of being devoured by a giant yo-yo.

  16. Looks like a big balled man (Elephantiasis?) reaching around for a wipe. Can’t wait to see what they come up with in twenty to twenty-five years to replace this and all the negative associations it has gathered.

  17. Hey! Hey! He’s tipping over! Somebody help him! Wait…are we supposed to let him be independent right now? 

  18. I’m in a wheelchair and the new symbol with the arms arched up way behind only reminds me of the torture my poor rotator cuff has endured over the years, so much so that I now use a motorized chair!

    icon fail…

  19. Wait, which one did they choose? That article has at least 3 different new logos. 

  20. This is teh logo I think they plan to use – well, the one on the shirt seems different than the one on the sign. Either way, not too legible.

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