Handicap Sign

Do you ever wonder why the international symbol for accessibility is the blue sign with a white wheelchair pictogram? Ever wonder when people started using this symbol for handicap signs? Let us revisit the history of the handicap sign and how it came to be the international symbol we know it to be today.

1968 was the year when the International Commission on Technology and Accessibility or ICTA decided to hold a competition to see who can come up with the best design for use on areas that are designated as reserved for or accessible by people with disabilities. The winning design was created by Susan Kofoed.  The design was a stick figure of a wheelchair with a representation of a person in it. It was in white with a blue background, making it highly visible.

It was said however that the original design did not have a head on it, which was why the ICTA had Karl Montan revise this pictogram. He then took a circle and placed it on top of the stick figure in the wheelchair, and voila! The International Symbol for Accessibility, or ISA, was born.

These days, you can see this particular symbol used on parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities, marking ramps and showing people where accessibility options can be found. These can also be used to mark vehicles that carry people with disabilities, which then enable these vehicles to park in these reserved parking slots. This symbol is also seen on bathroom signs to indicate that there are facilities there suitable for the use of people in wheelchairs.

New Handicap Sign Pictogram

Some people these days however find that the old symbol used on handicap signs and on accessible parking spots are not indicative of the people who are actually in wheelchairs. They say that this particular symbol shows people in wheelchairs to be inactive and passive, which they say is not a true representation of such individuals. With this mindset, advocates have started rallying against the use of this particular symbol and pushing for the revision of the sign as well as the symbol itself.

They have designed a new symbol with a more active looking stick figure of a person in a wheelchair. This particular pictogram is even being used by a number of establishments and businesses nowadays as support for such an advocacy. What do you think? Should the old pictogram stay or should the new, more active handicap sign image be used in its stead?