A new symbol to represent people with disabilities is being introduced in New York City. The symbol, designed by a team at Gordon College, looks like this:
We’ve posted previously about the politics of the symbol and its history. The notable changes here are the moving of the arms to the wheels of the chair, suggesting that the person is pushing themselves, and the forward-leaning angle, suggesting active motion. It tells a story about independence and ability, instead of dependence and disability. A very nice change.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
tom — June 14, 2013
Want a real step forward? How about equality with everyone else!
DCancilla — June 14, 2013
Isn't this treating disabled people differently than others? The standard symbol for women shows an inactive individual. Are we implying that it's an insult to the disabled to show a disabled person at rest, but that it's not an insult to show a non-disabled woman at rest?
Looking at this another way -- is it a bigger insult to suggest that a disabled person might not be moving, or that all disabled people are in wheelchairs?
Shannon Hubbell — June 14, 2013
Is this really a new thing? I'm pretty sure my apartment building in Oakland has symbols that are very similar.
Ozy111 — June 15, 2013
It certainly does a good job of erasing those who can't use their arms to propel their own wheelchair. It looks to me like a symbol of those who are disabled but not too disabled, and really, doesn't even make sense in the context pictured. People who have no undue trouble moving themselves on their own are not the intended beneficiaries of reserved parking spaces.
guest — June 15, 2013
political correctness gone mad
Emma — June 15, 2013
"It tells a story about independence and ability"? So the implication is that an image of a person who can propel themselves manually in a wheelchair is a more positive image than a person who uses an electric wheelchair or has a carer push them? If you follow that line of reasoning then you might as well argue that it would be a 'better' or 'more independent' image to show a person standing beside their wheelchair - after all, lots people who use wheelchairs can stand and walk a few steps.
Whereas in reality, it is of course possible to be very active, and demonstrate ability in all sorts of ways, even if you rely on a wheelchair and need someone to push it for you.
Define “Active” | Painting On Scars — June 16, 2013
[...] week. (See above.) Featuring a forward-moving, self-propelling wheelchair user, the new symbol has garnered praise from the mayor’s office and Professor Lisa Wade of Occidental College for portraying disabled [...]
Rhetoric on My Mind | Tracing: Disability – Round 1 — June 21, 2013
[...] Social Imagery: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/06/14/new-symbol-for-disability-unveiled-in-new-york-city/ [...]
Natalie — July 10, 2013
You all raise good points! I had some of the same thoughts after processing it, but my initial reaction was not about what it literally depicts (a person in a wheelchair who uses their arms to propel themselves), but that it symbolizes the idea that disabled is not synonymous with incapable.
As Tom points out, the change that is most needed is in our thinking and ways of treating one another. And by our, I really mean those of us without disabilities, at least as far as they are currently defined.
I am interested in the team that created this -- any individuals w/ disabilities on it?
Rhetoric on My Mind | Tracing: Disability (and Accessibility) Round #4 — July 13, 2013
[...] Social Imagery/Label [...]