How a new International Symbol of Access can change the way we see individuals with disabilities
The Accessible Icon Project is an international project that has collected a lot of informal data through the many conversations, presentations, and emails received from people around the world. This research initiative is one of the first formal methods of obtaining specific information about the types of words people associate with the International Symbol of Access (original ‘handicapped’ sign) and the Accessible Icon (new symbol created by Sara Hendren, Brian Glenney, and Tim Ferguson-Sauder). The two surveys used in this study asked participants to compare the current International Symbol of Access to the Accessible Icon. The first survey asked participants a series of questions regarding the words they would use to describe both images. The second survey asked different participants to rank a collection of 18 words from most positive to negative.
Survey 1: (Screen shots of the survey are found in paper)
At the beginning of the survey, participants were shown a picture of the original International Symbol of Access (ISA) and were asked two opened ended questions: 1. What do you see? 2. What words do you attach to the image above? On a new page, participants were shown the Accessible Icon and were asked the same two questions. Participants responded to the symbols in historical order.
Participants were then shown the original ISA and were asked to choose from a list of 20 pre-selected words to describe the image. Participants were given the following words: Abled, Active, Determined, Disabled, Engaged, Handicapped, Human, Life-less, Mobile, Motivated, Movement, Moving-Forward, Parking, Passive, Ready-for-action Robotic, Slow, Static, Stiff, and Symbol.
The second survey asked participants to rank the 18 words given in the first survey from most positive (1) to most negative (18). Participants from survey 1 did not participate in survey 2. Additionally, survey 2 participants did not know survey 1 existed.
More positive language is associated to words describing the Accessible Icon. Out of the top ten words linked to the Accessible Icon, all 10 were listed as the most positive in the comparative scale. The only word that described both the Accessible Icon and International Symbol of Access was the word “symbol”, which was ranked 10 out of 18. I analyze symbol as a neutral word since it is ranked in the middle of the positive and negative scale. Not one person associated the words: passive, static, slow, and lifeless (which was ranked the most negative) to the Accessible Icon.
The original ISA was described with the words that were found to be the most negative. 52 people identified the ISA with the word disabled and 40 people identified the ISA with the word lifeless. Not one positively ranked word was mentioned in the top ten words associated with the original ISA.
Please read the full paper by clicking on the blue link above.