Turn into any parking lot and it’s easy to spot the handicapped spaces by the traditional blue and white accessibility icon: a stationary wheelchair under a static stick figure. But this month, the handicapped spaces across Gordon’s campus show a new icon, a person leaning forward, arm in the air as if to push the wheels, making the College the first in the nation to display the new, more engaged symbol.
Thanks to the efforts of Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, who collaborated on the design with Sara Hendren, graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the new symbol challenges how people perceive those who are disabled. The forward moving icon, which the two designed and printed locally, grew out of two years of research in Glenney’s Philosophical Psychology Lab as well as advocacy in and around Boston. As a result, one local town is in the process of updating its wheelchair symbols with Glenney and Hendren’s new one and a few area businesses have done the same. But Gordon is the first college to make the switch as Glenney, students from an aesthetics class and physical plant staff replaced the old signs with new ones on October 22, 2012.
“The (old) handicap symbol, visible in every public building in the western world, offers a lifeless, passive, helpless and medical representation of people with disabilities,” Glenney said. “I realized that this representation was actually part of my own real perception of this population, and I didn’t think I was the only one. So the Accessible Icon Project began as a way of correcting this perception by re-imagining the symbols we use to represent people with disabilities.” Continue reading