The Accessible Icon Project is an ongoing work in design activism, begun in 2010. Founded by Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney, the work started as a guerilla street art campaign: placing a clear-backed sticker on top of parking signs depicting the International Symbol of Access. As street art, the work was intended to use the language of graffiti—unsanctioned, informal public expression—to pose questions about disability in the built environment and in democratic societies: Who is able, and who is disabled? What do inclusive streets, architecture, schools, workplaces, and economic structures look like? Press attention to the graffiti campaign brought Hendren and Glenney into collaboration with Triangle, Inc., and the project set in motion collaborative events that used the adoption of a new graphic to have pointed conversations about disability and public life. With design refinements from Tim Ferguson-Sauder, the icon also grew from a street art graphic to a formal isotype in line with other standard 2D icons that can be seen in public spaces everywhere. In 2013, the project was accessioned by the Museum of Modern Art (NY), for its Architecture & Design permanent collection.
Since its inception, educational institutions, private companies, cities and townships, governmental organizations, hospitals, and—most importantly—individual activists all over the world have appropriated the new icon for their own purposes. (And since the icon is in the public domain, free for use by anyone, it appears in all kinds of places far beyond the founders’ reach!)
The Accessible Icon Project has become an activist design campaign that begins with a question about icons and representation. But its animus is a much more ambitious wish to see socio-political structures become materially, meaningfully inclusive: through grassroots work and official policy, by organized efforts and by single acts. You’ve reached the project’s updated website, the mission of which is to highlight the people and actions that have reached out to the project in connection with their own ongoing work. You can see both short- and long-form features on the icon found “in the wild” all over the world, but you can also explore the people and organizations who are making change in all kinds of ways. (A lot of stories are also on our social media page.) See our FAQ, “Notes on Design Activism,” here, and download the icon graphics here.
Sara Hendren, Brian Glenney, Tim Ferguson-Sauder, Jeff Gentry, Leah Serao, Jeff Lafata, Brendon Hildreth, Cyndi McMahon, Kim Izar, Keith Jones, Crystal Evans-Pradhan, Finn Bullers, Hector del Valle, Travis Talbot, Tim Lindgren, William Lu, Annabel Consilvio, Aaron Greiner, Triangle, Inc., the home of EPIC.
- “New ‘Handicapped’ Symbol Featured At Museum of Modern Art,” disabilityscoop, March 6, 2014.
- “The wheelchair icon gets a makeover and museum fame,” Love That Max, February 20, 2014.
- “Does the International Wheelchair Symbol Need a Redesign?” Slate, February 19, 2014.
- “Icon For Access,” 99% Invisible, February 18, 2014.
- “Moving Forward Pop-Up,” Art Nerd New York, February 14, 2014.
- “The Accessible Icon Project,” The Navigator, January 23, 2014.
- “The Accessible Icon Project’s New Way to Re-Make a Traditional Symbol,” Minutes for Memories, December 22, 2013.
- “In motion: Accessible Icon Project moves forward,” Scope, December 17, 2013.
- “Disability Icon Revamped By Guerilla Art Project,” Page One of The Boston Globe, December 14, 2013.
- “Iconic Symbol Gets Moving in Makeover,” CNN, December 2, 2013.
- “City of New Bern Supports Accessible Icon Project,” Colleen Roberts, Oct 17, 2013.
- “New Handicapped Sign Rolls Into New York City,” NPR, July 07, 2013.
- “The Accessible Icon Project,” YAIlabs, June 28, 2013.
- “The Accessible Icon Project Revamps Famous Isotype,” Printmag, June 6, 2013.
- “How A Guerrilla Art Project Gave Birth To NYC’s New Wheelchair Symbol,” Fast Company, June 6, 2013.
- “Handicapped’ Symbol Gets Facelift,” disabilityscoop, June 28, 2013.
- “A Team of Academics Redesigns an Icon,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 20, 2013.
- “New York City planning to use a new, more progressive handicapped symbol,” The Verge, June 25, 2013.
- “More Powerful Than Words,” The Huffington Post, December 17, 2012.
- “Why Do Symbols Matter?,” Disability.gov, November 26, 2012.
- “Taking control: Redefining disability,” WCVB, October 20, 2012.
- “Gordon College adds new ‘accessibility icon’,” Salem News, October 20, 2012.
- “Malden unveils new statewide handicapped accessible parking sign,” WIcked Local, August 17, 2012.
- “Triangle Inc. Gets a Makeover,” Ablevision, August 16, 2012.
- “Enabling a New Icon,” The Boston Globe, February 21, 2011.