Tuesday, October 16, 2018

New York Stories #2: The Accessibility Project

    You can't go to New York and not see a sign that, well, just encapsulates its attitudinal, 24-hours-a-day, go-go-go sensibility.
    For years, there was that wonderful, "Don't even THINK of parking here."
   Or this update on the familiar handicapped access sign. I never considered just how static the neutral human figure in that chair really was until I saw this. Just as Chicago can seem like a hopping place until you hit New York.
     As with all good graphics, the second you see it, you know what it is intended to convey: that disability and dynamic action are not incompatible.
     Of course there is a story behind this symbol. It isn't exactly new.  Newish.
Showing its age
     The original "International Symbol of Access" was created in the 1968 by Danish design student Susan Koefoed.  Around 2010, the Accessible Icon Project began collecting more dynamic symbols, such as those at the MOMA and Marshalls, of all places, which showed a speeding wheelchair with little motion bars.
     Since then, they've been promoting the updated logo as a kind of guerrilla art project, slapping new versions over existing signs.
     Progress is slow. The status quo has its own weight and momentum. Despite eight years of promotion, the old symbol still predominates—I'd never seen the new one until I came to New York—New York state officially adopted the more active logo for its public buildings in 2014.
     Still, this seems like the future. Something you can't embrace if you don't know about.


  1. I have not yet seen the "dynamic action" handicapped-access symbol. It makes me visualize a handicapped Mets fan, racing down the platform to catch a Number 7 train to the ballpark. That signage fairly screams out: "NEW YORK!"

  2. Looks good, now. Not sure it would have been instantly understood when the symbol was first seen. Maybe I'm influenced by the original sign itself, more than the reality of a person in a wheelchair, but the original looks more like our impression of the wheelchair bound. Subsequent sights of chair racers and other athletes inform the new sign, a positive symbol most would agree.

  3. I'm amazed at how a few lines can represent so much. The original design by Koefoed apparently depicted the wheel chair only; the addition of the little ball at the top made it human while retaining the wheel chair image. And now the tiny changes in the new design not only make it more dynamic, but advance the humanity of the image as well. Would be a delight to hear more about the design of stick figures as communication.


  4. As I read I get the sense that I'm visiting the great metropolis. It's good to travel without leaving your chair, and etremely less expensive. Another perk of being a loyal follower of EGDD.


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