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

Honoring an advocate: Finn Bullers

Saddened by the news of our advocate and team member Finn Bullers. After many conversations through email and phone, I can honestly say Finn fought for the rights of those with disabilities and promoted the Accessible Icon project throughout the nation, and in particular, the midwest. I admire his tenacity, passion, and spirit. Finn you will be missed.

accessible icon project, disability advocate, reporter, kansas, merriam reporter


Wheelchair Snow Plow

This week, a lot of the states were hit with major snow storms ranging from 25 to 30 inches. A lot of times, with massive snowfall, the streets and sidewalks become unaccessible to wheelchair users and others who rely on smooth walkways.

This video shows one man who decided to modify his wheelchair to meet his needs due to the snowy weather. This idea is definitely on my “top 10” list. I am looking for others to replicate! Justin Anderson is an accessible icon.

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.


Symbols and Signs

While touring Germany, Italy, and Spain, I was highly interested in the symbols each country used to signify basic street information. Here in the states, there has been much debate about if the Accessible Icon is legal since it has not been officially adopted as the symbol of access by the DOT or DOJ. While almost everyone will agree that the symbol represents movement, some argue that a new symbol is not needed or can cause confusion. Since I am now interested in exploring the different symbols that exist, I took pictures of the different symbols I came across while traveling.

 Accessible Icon Updates: 

  • DOJ (Department of Justice) verbal approval of the icon during the National ADA Symposium. Read here (May 2015)
  • New York State announcement of a slow phasing in of the symbol. Read here (August 2014)
  • New Jersey bill in progress. Read here ( September 2014)



Big News for the Accessible Icon Project: DOJ Approval

We are very excited to announce that members from the Department of Justice officially acknowledged the Accessible Icon as meeting ADA regulations (a long debated topic that prevented some people from moving forward with the symbol) at a recent conference. Kate Thurman,  Disability Project Coordinator for Cambridge Commissions for Persons with Disabilities who attended the National ADA Symposium provided us with the following information:

As you saw on Twitter, I attended the National ADA Symposium in Atlanta, which ended yesterday with a Town Hall Meeting. I have pasted below my notes on the conversation during this meeting about the use of the Accessible Icon. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled to hear from DOJ that the use of the icon is permissible under the ADA!

Accessibility Icon

Please read the article with statements from various DOJ members here: Although DOJ and ADA are slow to announce in writing, we believe these public statements reflect a decision that will eventually be announced formally through their social media sites.

At the conference, all 50 states, in addition to Canada, Gaum, and the Virgin Islands were represented and part of the discussion.

As of May 28, we know of over 35 states using the icon, and over 10 countries. New York State is the first state to legally adopt the icon, and New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas, and Pennsylvania are following suit. Needless to say,  our team was thrilled when we heard the news.

Accessible Icon Project: Projects from around the world

One of the best parts of being on the Accessible Icon team is to regularly hear how people use the icon to create other advocacy projects and ideas. I recently was sent this animation video made by Shaheen Sheriff for a class project promoting the International Symbol of Access and the Accessible Icon Project.

I personally love how this animation highlights the movement of the icon and the different ways people with disabilities can be active and engaged in their lived environments.

Support Accessibility in Italy

Accessibility has become an increasing problem in historic places such as Italy, Israel, and parts of Africa. Cobblestones, cracked side walks, and lack of ramps make it difficult for people with physical disabilities to travel. A group of operators in Venice decided to do something to help fix this problem.

Who: Gondolas4all

Where: Venice, Italy

Problem: Currently people in wheelchairs are not able to access gondola rides unless they are carried onto gondolas, which can be dangerous

Solution: To build the first ever automated wheelchair lift on a floating jetty

Picture taken from crowd sourcing site:

Picture taken from crowd sourcing site:

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.