Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thoughts Please




So meet the 'new' symbol that's being proposed.

Now, full disclosure, I know NOTHING about the history behind this and only found out about it because someone emailed me and asked me my opinion of it. I decided to wait to investigate until we've had a chance to chat about it here first.

My first thought was 'why don't I care about this?'

Like the song from A Chorus Line ... I dug right down to the bottom of my soul and I felt nothing.

I imagine that a lot of work has gone into this, a lot of thought and hours and hours of discussion. I imagine that there are people really passionate about this and who find meaning in what the new symbol 'says.' I do not wish to disparage that ... I think it's important that people fight the battles they choose to fight. I just don't find myself being caught up in the new design.

It strikes me that I may not be the best person to respond to this. I am, 7 years in, still recently disabled. I've lived with the old blue badge guy for a relatively short period of time. For me getting the blue badge was important both for the accessibility it gave me and the identification of myself as a disabled person. For those who've been with the symbol for a lot longer, they may have come to dislike it and desire change. I'm good with that.

So ... what are your thoughts? Do you like the new symbol? Do you think it says something new and different? I'm curious ... comments please!!!

20 comments:

CL said...

Hmmm. I don't see the original symbol as conveying helplessness -- there are no handles on the back of the chair, implying that someone will push the person. It seems like a simple illustration of a stick figure in a wheelchair.

But I also don't see any harm in changing it -- and if it makes some people happy, then it's a good thing. Maybe it will remind people that most wheelchair users are independent. I could see something like that having a slight impact on public perceptions, on an unconscious level.

First Lee said...

It seems to be a very athletic symbol. I, myself, have a very mild physical disability...but I'm not athletic. It might be a better symbol for wheelchair/adaptive sports than accessibility.

Lori said...

Actually, I like it. I immediately see "engaged", "active", "mobility". Rather than "handicapped", "needy". It's a small change and shouldn't really matter, but I do think there was thought put into making this represent mobility rather than disability. IMHO

Lori

Mary said...

I think it depends what they're trying to do with it.

I've seen all sorts of different "styles" of signs for facilities. I quite like it when the signs have clearly all been designed as a set - so the signs for Gents and Ladies and Disabled and Babies and You Must Be This Tall To Ride and so on are matching, based on but not *exactly* the same as the universal pictograms.

But trying to assert this design as a new universal pictogram... I'm not convinced. It's no simpler or easier to understand than the existing one. It certainly doesn't encompass more types of access or disability. And I suspect that for every 'active' wheelchair user who feels the existing Blue Badge Guy looks a bit too passive, there will be a less active, or older, or paralysed, or sick, or dying wheelchair user who feels that this new version bashes them with the SuperCrip stick.

The point of the universal pictograms is that they're *universal*. This makes them really, really, really easily recognised. That's what they are FOR.

Like on road signs here. Speed camera signs look nothing like actual speed cameras. Local attractions get a carousel icon even if they don't have a carousel. Railway crossings show a silhouette steam train that bears no resemblance to any train I've ever seen on those rails. But we know what the pictograms mean.

In summary: I wouldn't bat an eyelid if I saw this version somewhere, it would be emotionally neutral for me. I don't mind any company, person, designer, making their own variation on the symbol for use within their own grounds or organisations. But the universal pictograms such variations are based off are supposed to Not Change, they're meant to be a constant, that's the whole point of universal pictograms...

Anonymous said...

I'm certainly not a fan. This seems to capture the ultra-indepent, athletic population of wheelchair users. The money spent developing and producing this would be better spent on ramps and curb cuts.

Andrea S. said...

I don't use a wheelchair at all. But I do notice the new design makes the rider seem more actively engaged in his/her own mobility. So I like it. I see another person say it seems "athletic"--I can see how others might perceive it that way (now that I've been prompted) but that was not my own immediate thought.

Anonymous said...

Someone thought the old symbol was too passive and gave off the feeling of someone just sitting there. They had a contest for a new symbol and this one won.The thinking behind it is to give off a more active vibe and maybe even subconsciously get people thinking of the disabled as participants in life and not just bystanders (so to speak).

Anonymous said...

I'm with Lori. I see "active", "engaged", and "get outta my way--I'm coming through!" The old symbol seems very static/passive next to it.

I think my mum, who uses a handi-accessible card for her car, would like it. I will surely pass it by her and get her reaction. At 81, she's a real "get outta my way--I'm coming through!" kinda gal. And I love her for it. :^)

Sue

Tamara said...

I thought "athletic" when I first saw it too. I kind of agree with the Anonymous who said that money changing it could be used for things that really increase independence. But, I don't use a wheelchair, so I just might not get it.

Hopefully, they'll ease it in in a way that won't cost a lot of money -

Alison Cummins said...

TAB here.

What Mary said. This pictogram is not more universal than the old one. The only pictograms I can think of that show people active and moving are the road signs near playgrounds showing kids running into the street after a ball. The sign is for drivers, not kids.

Is this one supposed to mean that when you park in a spot with that pictogram you need to be careful not to be crashed into by disabled people in wheelchairs charging through it?

When it’s on a bathroom door, does it mean it’s for people with poor control over elimination who need to get into the stall RIGHT NOW?

If it’s simply used to indicate the accessibility of a particular location, it sets a lower standard. What’s accessible to a murderball player in a sports chair may not be accessible to a person in a power chair.

I do like the idea of showing the wheelchair as something that enables mobility and promotes engagement, and that wheelchair users are not passive. (I also wish that the “women” pictogram on bathroom doors didn’t have to be wearing a dress.) I don’t think it’s useful as a universal pictogram because it combines two ideas (wheelchairs/disability and speeding) making it unnecessarily ambiguous.

Yes I think it’s attractive and I can think of contexts where it might be used, but I don’t think it can be a new standard.

Ettina said...

How is it supposed to be different from the old one? I'm not seeing it.

Princeton Posse said...

I agree with Lori & Sue, the new symbol seems more engaged and active. May not suit everyone but better, I think than the old one.

Anonymous said...

I am not disabled and don't really feel, therefore, that my opinion is all the important on this one. I like it...for me the person in the chair is more "subject" than "object" in this version. But that's just me and I don't roll.

CapriUni said...

I first saw this post late last night, when I was tired, and sliding toward bed. So maybe that influenced my reaction of, as Mary put it: "getting bashed with the super-crip stick."

Although I realize the reasoning behind it -- to convey the message that wheelchair users are, on the whole, active and engaged with their own lives... And I applaud sending that message...

But you can be engaged with your life even if you are not able to push yourself with such vigor in a manual chair...

jesse-the-k said...

I loathe it.

The "wheelie blue" isn't only for parking; I also see it on lockers with lower hooks, store windows currying favor if not business, doors with automatic openers, &c

The effort that goes into implementing a new standard is significant. (Yes, I'm one of those folks who reads accessibility codes.) As a wheelchair user, I want the symbol to be the same everywhere. The variety we put up with before the passage of the ADA in the US was frustrating.&c

As a disability activist, I think that using the "wheelie blue" as a symbol for "accessible" in general is a big mistake. Wheelchair users make up a tiny proportion of people with disabilities--can't track down the number right now but it's less than 5%, manual & power combined.

Finding that universal disability symbol is hard. That's why we have the static blue-on-white is-it-a-robot? is-it-a-chair? symbol we have now.

I just don't want to rearrange the images on that symbol: I want a truly universal sign which all people with disabilities can get behind.

Rachel in Idaho said...

Not a chair user (at least at this point in my life) but yeah, I REALLY don't like it. Nothing wrong with athletic chair-users, long may they kick ass and take names, but they are not the majority any more than athletes are a majority of the average (as in non-disabled) population. It's taking a symbol that is already non-inclusive if read literally to be even more so. Not a good direction to go in. I don't think seeing a symbol in a parking space is going to make some jerk stop and rethink how they think about chair users, let alone the rest of us, yanno?

I think if there was to be a change in the symbol, it should be to something that is totally different and unrelated to chairs. Don't ask me what because I don't know.

Kristine said...

Really don't care. It's just a stick figure. I'd rather see energies devoted to a more worthwhile cause, because my cynical side envisions some committee members somewhere patting themselves on the back for this supposedly important social justice work. But, whatever.

I'm always super amused by the variations in the wheelchair dude. Every now and then, you see one facing the opposite way. My friends think it's weird when I comment, "That one's backward," but then they start noticing that there is, indeed, a "right" direction. Some wheelchair dudes are tilted at an odd angle, and look like they're going to fall out of their chair. Some look like they're slouching. And my favorite is the way my parking pass looks when hanging up. You can kind of see through it, so you see the wheelchair dude facing you, and the one on the opposite side, all at the same time. They do this reverse-overlap thing, where it looks like they're on one another's lap, facing each other, and, well, it's a little scandalous. :)

Shan said...

Agreed, and well-put.

Max Neill said...

British comedian Tommy Cooper would slip something into the top pocket of people like taxi drivers and bell hops, saying "Have a drink on me".

Once he was out of the way, they'd check to see how much he'd given, only to find a tea bag.

re-fresh said...

Hi Dave, I'm passing along the link to May 29th's blog....I completely agree with this author:

http://bloom-parentingkidswithdisabilities.blogspot.ca/