Confusion still reigns about the international symbol of access (ISA). Is it exclusively for wheelchair users? Or does it denote access for everyone? The ISA was originally created to denote physical spaces for wheelchair accessibility. But its meaning has evolved into something much more complex.
A study with participants who were a mix of people with and without disability revealed some interesting findings. However, some participants who did not identify as having a disability described themselves as having some form of impairment. This illustrates ideological differences about disability per se, and highlights how society uses labels and symbols to define a group or culture in wider society.
The article has lots of statistical results. The discussion and conclusions are worth a read because of the implications across society. It includes a look at all the symbols currently in use to signify different disabilities. Some participants wanted to see characteristics of themselves in symbols, but this creates uncertainty with other groups. As an aside, the use of the word “handicap” showed up in participant responses, indicating it is still in common usage.
The title of the article is Effectiveness of the International Symbol of Access and inclusivity of other disability groups.
The article concludes, “Perhaps a more effective solution would be standards which incorporate universal design, thereby ensuring equitable and intuitive use of products and spaces and eliminating the need to symbolically represent population-based accessibility. Initiatives such as Design for All (DfA) in Europe, which was adopted in the EIDD Stockholm Declaration of 2004, and the Barrier-Free Accessibility (BFA) program in Singapore, promote a social model of disability by encouraging barrier-free design of products, services, and environments for people of all abilities and under varying socioeconomic situations.”