A new ‘spin’ on an old symbol

A new ‘spin’ on an old symbol

Despite great advancements in health care for people with differing abilities, the universal symbol for accessibility just hasn’t caught up.

The current symbol, painted in iconic yellow and blue in nearly every parking lot across Canada, reserves parking space close to buildings, stores and services for those who need easier access. But, some believe that the symbol doesn’t represent what it means to have a “disability”, and patients, families and staff members at Hamilton Health Sciences’ Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC) agree.

sign reading "I can so I will"

“The objection to the current symbol is that the person appears to be more stationary and dependent,” says Lindsay Bray, clinical leader in developmental pediatrics & rehabilitation at RJCHC. “But, many people who use wheelchairs don’t see themselves this way. Something like the dynamic symbol is more reflective of individuals’ differing abilities.”

In favour of a more inclusive, forward-focused sign, RJCHC staff, patients and family members came together for a “painting party” to give the centre’s parking spaces a new look. The new symbol, which pictures a person in motion using a wheelchair, is called the “Dynamic Symbol of Access” and it’s part of a growing global movement to encourage people to rethink their understanding of disability. In Ontario, accessibility advocacy group The Forward Movement is campaigning for the adoption of the symbol province-wide.

Patient helping paint the new accessibility symbol on the parking spaces

“At RJCHC, we always want to empower our patients to maximize their independence and participation.” says Lindsay. “We know that our patients and their families can help us move forward at HHS and in our greater community, by advocating for themselves and helping to make changes that will better reflect diversity and celebrate individuals’ abilities.”

Painting the accessibility parking symbol in the parking lot