Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

I don't think we need to update the disability icon

25 Feb 2016It's been making progress for several months now, so maybe you've heard of it. I'm taking about the push to change the International Symbol for Access, which has started in the US. While the symbol is gaining popularity, other parts of the world haven't been so quick to follow suit.

The Accessible Icon Project has proposed a new symbol that shows a wheelchair user leaning forward as if they are in motion. The creators hope that it will increase awareness, create a positive attitude, and more accurately portray disability.

I haven't written about this subject until now because it wasn't a subject I felt needed more attention. But now questions are being asked about whether Australia should follow suit and adopt the new symbol. I don't think we need to.

My thoughts on the purpose of the symbol are it's there to easily identify that whatever its attached to is there to assist the disabled, it has no hidden meaning to me. It's not a statement about how lazy, active, or anything else in between someone might be. Don't make it something we have to be all politically correct about.

I don't have a problem with the new symbol they've proposed, and I won't give it a second thought if it's approved here. But I also don't have a problem with the current symbol, and I don't think it needs to be changed. There are more important things we should be focusing our time, effort and money on. Improving the accessibility of buildings or reducing disability unemployment are far more important issues.

Now you may be thinking but this is a positive thing, don't you want to support disabled people. Of course I want to support them, but how does this do that?

As the President of People with Disability Australia, Craig Wallace said Something like this doesn't fix any problems however; it ends up getting a lot of oxygen. So if we spend a lot of time debating this issue, the focus and discussion on other more important issues is pushed out of the spotlight.

Call me negative if you want but I don't believe this will make any difference to the attitude of society. Sure people will feel good about themselves for doing something to advance the cause. But nothing has really happened.

Those with a positive and accepting attitude will continue to be accepting. Those with a negative attitude that use our parking spots will continue to do so and not care about it. Everything will continue on as business as usual, people aren't going to realise the error of their ways just by having the figure in the image lean forward.

Disabilities are quite diverse and wheelchair users are only one part of that community. So I see why people have criticised the new and old design, calling for it to be shifted away from the wheelchair imagery to something more inclusive. Maybe it would reduce the number of people that get abused for using accessible parking spaces just because they're not in a wheelchair.

Trying to cater to everyone who is unhappy with the symbol just isn't possible though. We could remove the symbol altogether and only have the word disabled written in big letters, but that creates its own problems. It's a no win situation.

If you want to help in regards to the accessibility symbol, respect its purpose. It may be an inconvenience for you to park further away, or have to wait for a free toilet stall to become available instead of using the accessible one. But there are people who need to use these things to get by, not for their convenience.

So let's put our time and money towards more important activities than painting car parks and signs with new symbols.

Whether you agree or disagree with me, what's your say on the matter?


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