When I read this story about a group of people working to change the International Symbol of Access (ISO), I was really intrigued, and it made me think about how this guerilla art project addressed the way we often think about physical ability and disability. I reached out to the Accessibile Icon Project to find out more and discovered that one of the people who created the icon is Seattle native Brian Glenney, former Westlake skater and part of the Big Time Mob graffiti crew, so I called him to find out more.
The reimagined ISO features a person in a wheelchair with some forward movement—the body is angled forward, the lines of the wheels indicate movement, and the arm is crooked back in such a way that it implies pushing. The image is transparent, so when it's placed over the current ISO you an see both the old and new look. Glenney started this project with artist (and so much more) Sara Hendren as a way to
create a disturbance and not accepting the old, static, medicalized stick figure to symbolize access. The idea is to trigger advocacy, or at least inspect our preconceptions of people with disabilities.
I think it's really cool.
But the project has some detractors. According to Glenney, some people feel that having a wheel in the ISO limits the symbolization in a way that excludes other types of disabilities. He's open to change, though, and thinks that evolving symbology will do more to create a conversation about advocacy. (The Accessible Icon Project image went through several changes, too.)
I reached out to a few of my friends who have disabilities to get their take on this new symbol, but none have gotten back to me yet (they're busy taking over the world, sorry). What do you guys think about this? Will you be ordering stickers and tagging signs around town? Do you think this is offensive or progressive?