How the New Wheelchair Icon Becomes a Symbol of Hope
For a long time now disability rights activists have had a problem with the wheelchair icon. Showing a person sitting on a wheelchair in white colour over a blue background, they say that it becomes a passive representation of a community that is active participants in the society. Kimberly Izar organised a pop-up installation with its attraction being a newly designed wheelchair symbol. This showed the disabled person as an active member, addressing the problems with the earlier icon.
Disabled people have been considered by society as dependent individuals who form a liability to the society. As Izar points out, bringing in the example of her family member who is a successful employee at a restaurant, how this is not the case. They are as contributing to the society as any other ‘able-bodied’ individual, the message that Accessible Icon Project hopes to impart. Many organisations and institutions have followed the lead and adopted the new icon, including Northeastern University. The icon has crossed the United State borders to Italy, Korea, Australia and Malta and pictures and videos of the icon in various parts of the globe flood Izar’s inbox, bringing the project to a global level.
The icon isn’t a simple rearranging of lines and curves; it is a step ahead in the disability rights struggle. It is hoped to initiate discussions on the mainstream portrayal of disabled people and the need for a change in this skewed representation. It becomes a symbol of hope to thousands of disabled people who live everyday battling against prejudices, underestimations, misconceptions, and misrepresentations.
N Malavika Mohan