The Accessible Icon Emoji

Recently, a new emoji was added to the Apple iSO10 update, and the Accessible Icon team was very pleased to learn that the accessible icon was included for the social media world to use on a daily basis. With the new icon emerging into the digital world, people who were unfamiliar with the project wanted to know more about the icon that represents people with disabilities as active and engaged. In more detail, I wrote an article about the story of the accessible icon that was published here: Please take the time to read why a group of people identify with the more active looking symbol and be sure to look out for the accessible icon on your phones!

iPhone update, symbols, disabilities, technology

An Introduction to ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)

What is applied behavior analysis (ABA)?

Applied behavior analysis is a field that works with individuals to determine the function of behavior as well as environmental reinforcers that encourage or discourage the likelihood of individuals displaying target behaviors.

What is a target behavior?

A target behavior is any behavior that is being addressed or talked about by a professional, parent, or client.

What is a problem behavior?

A problem behavior is an action or verbal statement that is deemed inappropriate.

Why do people engage in problem behavior?

According to the field, there are four functions (or reasons) individuals engage in any behavior: attention seeking, access to a tangible (item), sensory stimulation (produces a good feeling), or avoidance (of a task, person, or environment). In short, individuals engage in multiple behavior to get what they want or don’t want.

What is a replacement behavior?

A replacement behavior is an agreed upon appropriate behavior that serves the same function as the problem behavior displayed by the individual. A replacement behavior must be: developmentally appropriate, context appropriate, and provide the same access to the desired function of the behavior. Essentially, it replaces the problem behavior in exchange for a more appropriate behavior.

What is the ABC approach to understanding behavior?

When a behavior takes place, professionals consider what takes place before the behavior occurred (the antecedent) and what takes place after the behavior occurred (the consequence). The ABC approach allows analyst to track behavior for patterns, trends, and other factors that may provide insight on why an individual is behaving in a certain way. An example of a familiar chart using the ABC approach is below.

***all scenarios are made up

behavior monitoring, function, shaping, identifying

Why is ABA helpful?

Behavior analysts can help individuals adapt to their environment as well as train care givers various effective ways to prevent and react to problem behaviors displayed by an individual. It also can help individuals achieve personal goals and shape their behavior in a way that is beneficial. ABA is used in public and private schools, hospitals, group homes, mental care facilities, rehab centers, self-help institutes, and specialized disability learning centers.

Emergent Learning

When I look back at my college years, Dr. Brian Glenney is one of the professors who stand out in my mind. Being a teacher myself, I am constantly inspired by other teachers who have molded me into the learner and professional I am today. Dr. Brian Glenney was a teacher who not only inspired, but taught me the value of pushing through new academic explorations and experiences.

His paper on Emergent Learning in Independent Studies: The Story of the Accessible Icon Project, recently published in Experiential Learning in Philosophy, highlights the value of teaching with an approach that pushes students toward publications and conference presentations. Under his guidance, I attended my first conference at the University of Tennessee and have, since then, spoken at other conferences due to the confidence he helped instill in me as a learner.

Dr Brian Glenney Leah Serao Accessible Icon Project

For me, his approach to teaching inspired me to be the best researcher, learner, and writer I could be. Although I still have a far way to go, his teaching style opened many doors and I am forever grateful to his unique technique.


Traveling is the best education

Traveling is the best education. This summer, I went with two friends to visit Munich Germany, Italy, and Madrid Spain. A few years before, I visited Mozambique and Israel. Some things I learned while abroad:

1. Each culture has its own idea of diet

Munich, Germany: While traveling, I noticed that Munich, Germany mainly served pretzels, sausage, and baked potatoes. Waiters did not get tipped and were not expected to provide quick service. Since we stayed in a hotel during our visit, we did have the option of a very typical American breakfast with some German specialties.

Italy: Italians tend to enjoy a very light breakfast such as nutella and bread, a croissant, and/or a cappuccino. Most Italians do not think it is healthy to go out with wet hair or to drink milk past noon. When I told some friends I met while traveling that I ate two eggs every morning, they could not believe it! Protein is not as highly valued as it is here in the states. Italians value very fresh ingredients with little preservatives.

Madrid, Spain: Spain is known for its tapas (open-faced sandwiches), churros and chocolate, and coffee with milk. Small plates are frequently ordered.

Israel: Hummus, cucumbers, and lots of veggies are a normal breakfast where we stayed in Jerusalem. I realized I did not take many pictures of the typical food in Israel, but took pictures of the foods I was surprised to find. Fun fact: Starbucks did not succeed in Israel. People there seem to value local sit-down places where they can chat with friends.

Mozambique: While I can not speak of their typical breakfast, lunches and dinners mostly contain of rice and beans, fish, and special types of stew.

2. Art connects a lot of European countries and explains historic events and beliefs 

***I am hesitant to post pictures of these famous paintings since they look so much nicer in person, but I think they are worth viewing even if it is through a camera lens.



Seeing the world through a lens of Signs and Symbols

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.

Survey 2:

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.

New Jersey is next to adopt the Accessible Icon Project

I have been working with Assemblyman Ron Dancer to help New Jersey be the second state to legally adopt the Accessible Icon. Back in September, I emailed him with the proposed idea and he quickly responded stating the he would support this legislation in New Jersey.

Now, the bill is created and is ready to be shared among the public. Please consider asking your local Assemblyman/woman and Senator to co-sponsor the bill linked below. Your support is needed! 

Our next step is to bring this to Governor Christie!

New York State Assembly Press Release: Accessible Icon Project

It was a surprise to the Accessible Icon team when we received a call from the New York State Senate inviting us to speak at their press release regarding the Accessible Icon legislation (A.8193/S.6846) created by Senator Carlucci and Assemblywoman Galef. New York is now the first official state to adopt the icon officially. Here are pictures from our trip visiting New York for the special event.

A Shared Vision of Access

The president of my school, Dr. Michael Lindsay, recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post commenting on The Accessible Icon Project and Beyond Disabilities Week, the focus week I hosted at my college. He explained his understanding of  “shared vision” and wrote how Gordon College  from its beginning has always been a place that valued access and opportunity.

The recent focus week has generated a lot of conversation that concentrates on how society views individuals with disabilities. These conversations, which have been informally held in the cafeteria and dorm rooms, have also taken an academic approach through various research papers presented in class. Many professors have also started hosting conversations in their classrooms and have been assigning reading materials that get students to think about access, ability, and disability within the context of education and society.

Please join the conversation by reading my President’s article here: A Shared Vision of Access.


Will you join us? Beyond Disabilities

For the past year, I have been organizing a week at my school focusing on the topic of disabilities. With the events quickly approaching, I invite all to share in the many talks and forums we will have at Gordon College on the week of February 17.

Please reference for a copy of week’s schedule.

Beyond Disabilities Week, Gordon College, Leah Serao, Temple Grandin Keynote

Beyond Disabilities Week: Library Closing

Dear students of Gordon College,

On Monday, February 10 the front door of the library was closed in order to raise awareness of how some students on campus must enter the library due to their physical disability. While this closing was a surprise to many students, the main purpose of the door closing was for others to experience what it is like to not use the front entrance of a building and how stairs can be seen as a barrier.

The intention was not to frustrate students, but to realistically show how some of our peers must enter and exit the library. As was said on our sign in front of the library, “reconciliation is walking alongside our brothers and sisters.” Since one of the goals of Beyond Disabilities Week is to make Gordon a place more hospitable for people with disabilities, we wanted the campus to join our peers in using the accessible entrance.

The Beyond Disabilities Week planning committee hopes that you found this exercise to be a unique opportunity to reflect on the challenges some of our peers face on campus. We look forward to exploring this topic with you more next week, February 17-21.

Thank you,

Beyond Disabilities Planning Committee

Please enjoy the photos of the event below. Click “Beyond Disabilities Week: Gordon College Library Closing” for more picture.

Library closing disability awareness Leah Serao
Library closing disability awareness Leah Serao

disability awareness library closing Leah Serao