Posted by: gravessack | October 18, 2015

New International Handicapped Symbol: Good or Bad?

Since implemented in 1974, a handicappped symbol has been plastered around the nation in places to designate accessibility. The symbol consists of a stick figure sitting rigidly upright in a stick wheelchair, mostly with a blue background. The sign can be found on parking spots, vehicles, automatic door openers, restrooms, stadiums, arenas, and in other areas to mark accessibility. The symbol is recognized internationally as the symbol of access. News came out this week that the symbol may be bound for a tweak in the near future.

The old handicapped sign is very well-known to people around the world. Some groups like the current symbol because it does not discriminate against people with severe disabilities and you can use your imagination with the current symbol. The sign, that has been used for more than 40 years, has been acceptable to many groups in that it shows someone just sitting up, like everyone does in a wheelchair.

Started as an art project, the new symbol is being recognized as a sign of the future. More purple than the former, the new logo features a more bold figure in a wheelchair in a racing position, as the figure is leaning forward. The sign kind of is going for a more athletic feel, perhaps reflecting that more people with disabilities are getting active.

Although New York adopted the new symbol last year and more states could do so soon, some backlash has occurred. The Federal Highway Administration has decided not to use the symbol for signs and pavement markings. Also, the International Organization of Standardization is against the new signifier because of the old one’s recognizability. Some people do not like the revamped sign because it is focused on the body and may imply prejudice to people with more serious disabilities.

Despite all the pushback, I am still rooting for a modernized handicapped sign. However, I do not think this new design is the one. As hard as it sounds, we need a sign that reflects all people with disabilities. Below is the old sign compared to the new version. We would love to hear your opinion of the new ADA symbol! To read more about this issue, click here.

On the left is the original handicap logo that has been around since 1974. On the right is the modernized symbol that cold be the future of accessibility.

On the left is the original handicap logo that has been in use since 1974. On the right is the modernized symbol that could be the future of accessibility.

Written by: Michael L. Sack



  1. Interesting! I hadn’t heard of this!

  2. I like the present symbol though I am open to tweaking it if people suggest it could be tweaked. But not too much, or there might be a period of confusion. As you said, the new sign doesn’t quite feel right. But I do like how it suggests activity. I hope bright blue background is kept. It feels cheerful like the sky.

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