In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the development of a new symbol for handicap signs. The previous symbol – developed in 1968 as part of a design competition – was recognizable, but considered problematic because:
- The Wheelchair Appeared Large
- The Man/Character Appeared Motionless
- The Foot Appeared Motionless
The symbol itself gave the appearance of the person depicted as being slow, weak, and unable. But activists have long seen this logo as a form of “ableism” – prejudiced against people that are handicapped, and contributing to a stigma that causes non-handicapped individuals to look down on those that struggle with disability.
Similarly, there are many forms of disability that are not as visible. For example, those that live with MS have a “hidden illness” that often makes it important for them to park closer to buildings (rather than have to walk across a large parking lot) but they are not in wheelchairs and their challenges are not visible to the naked eye.
Because the previous handicapped symbol gave the appearance of being unable to move, it also caused people to feel like handicapped signs are only for those that are severely disabled, and that anyone struggling with disability that is less visible is not in need of additional support.
The New Handicap Logo
The new handicap logo actually began as a form of mild vandalism. The design was seen at an art show, and a few street artists decided to replace handicapped symbols across Boston with a version of a the new logo, which depicted a person not simply immobile in a wheelchair, but actively wheeling it and moving around.
If you compare the two logos, the differences are striking:
- Head – Rather than straight up, which gave the impression of being unable to move, new handicap signs in NYC will have the head faced forward, as though the individual is actively moving.
- Arms – The arms are no longer resting on the sides of the wheelchair. Instead, they are pushing the wheels forward, to show the action of making the wheelchair move.
- Leg Position – The new leg position allows the individual depicted in the wheelchair to have the appearance of being separate from the chair itself. The previous logo gave the appearance of the person being a part of the wheelchair, as though the two are connected.
The logo still follows the same guidelines as other ISO 7001 DOT Pictograms but is now better able to convey a person, fully active and mobile, using a wheelchair to move forward. All signs around NY and NYC that are designed to display handicap access or availability will now have a depiction that is more in line with the idea that even though they are in need of some additional support, those that have some type of physical and mental handicap are still often as able as anyone else to move forward.
The Future of Handicap Signs
Even though the new logo has been well received by activists, it is not without its detractors. Some argue that it gives the impression of being too mobile – almost as though the person is racing, and not necessarily serving as a useful tool to simply show people what areas have handicap accessibility.
Others say that because the sign is different from other handicap logos outside of New York, it may not be as recognizable for those that are coming into town.
It may be that someday the handicap logo is charged again. But for now, New York is leading the way to do away with the previous immobile and inactive handicap depiction, and replacing it with a design that is more in line with how others view handicap accessibility.
For more information about handicap signs in NYC, or to order a new sign with the new logo to replace an old Office sign in NYC on your property, please call Signs NY today at (718) 453-8300. We are happy to provide you with more information about this type of logo and design, or get to work printing the signs that you need for your commercial or residential property.