One of the most recognized symbols world-wide is the disability symbol, officially called the International Symbol of Access (ISA). The symbol, which features a stick figure in a wheelchair with a blue-and-white color scheme, has been given a make-over for the twenty-first century.
The symbol, designed by Susanne Koefed in 1968 at the request of Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology and Accessibility has been criticized by some as portraying the disabled as limited, passive and helpless. (For a history of the International Symbol of Access, visit, History of the Handicapped Symbol and Rehabilitation International: Symbol of Access.)
The logo’s new look is the work of a design team at Gordon College in Massachusetts. The team decided to create a logo that aims to change the negative connotations of the original logo. The new design still maintains the traditional blue and white color scheme but shows the stick figure leaning forward and active. Like the traditional logo, the new design has critics as well as fans. Critics say the new symbol has too much emphasis on activeness when the same result could have been achieved a little more subtly.
The revamped logo has rolled out across accessible entry ramps and entries, parking signs, and bathroom doors. I most recently spotted it in the parking lot of the fitness and health center I frequent, and in the newly paved parking lot of the local community college.
Downloadable Disability Access Symbols
Want to promote and publicize the accessibility of your business or services? The “wheelchair symbol” isn’t the only symbol of access. The Graphic Artists Guild Foundation with support and technical assistance from the Office for Special Constituencies, National Endowment has produced 12 different symbols that indicate the type of access available. The symbols have been designed for use by both public and private entities to advertise available facilities to patrons both disabled or able-bodied.
Free vector downloads of the 12 disability access symbols are available; the Graphic Artists Guild has a complete set of the symbols in TIFF format in a ZIP file at Downloadable Disability Access Symbols.