Reference : The Icons of Access: From Exclusion to Inclusion
Diverse speeches and writings : Article for general public
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Sociology & social sciences
The Icons of Access: From Exclusion to Inclusion
Powell, Justin J W mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Languages, Culture, Media and Identities (LCMI) >]
Ben-Moshe, Liat [> >]
Stimulus Respond
[en] accessibility ; icon ; symbol ; disability ; wheelchair ; built environment ; signage ; design ; inclusion
[en] When integrated into signage, the international symbol of accessibility designates accessible spaces and facilities. In just a few decades, this icon has become ubiquitous throughout the world, now seen in nearly every airport, parking lot and public space. The diverse local interpretations of the icon mirror the shift from exclusion to inclusion of disabled people in the human rights revolution witnessed since the end of WWII. The traditional icon displays a figure and a real life object. In so doing, the access icon unwittingly creates a cyborg (see Haraway 1991): the wheelchair and its human user become one. Paradoxically, this global icon refers simultaneously to disability, and its ameliorating factor, accessibility. Only recently has a new type of access icon developed, dissolving the cyborg as it features an active rider—asserting the primacy of personhood and participation. The (wheelchair) mobility icon—and related icons for vision, hearing, and information access—have become among the most widely recognised representations of disability. The icons attest to early attempts to support wayfinding and communicate issues of physical access to places. Alongside disabled individuals themselves, these icons provide daily interactions with issues of accessibility and disability. In fact, in many countries, this icon is the most commonplace visual representation of disability, becoming virtually synonymous with it. Thus, its metaphorical importance far exceeds the marking of accessible spaces.
WZB; Syracuse University
Society for Disability Studies (SDS)
General public

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