The invisible disabilities

The invisible disabilities

Reimagine the wheelchair symbol to include invisible disabilities

50 years on from the release of the International Symbol of Access, a new set of icons are launched to help highlight invisible disabilities.

The classic International Symbol of Access or ISA – the blue square overlaid in white with the outline of a person in a wheelchair – has been with us now for half a century. As the world opens it eyes more and more to the inner and private struggles of everyday life through acknowledgment of trans rights and mental health issues, it’s high time to pay attention to those disabilities which don’t conform to the ISA icon.

Visability93 is a project designed to spot a spotlight on the 93% of the disabled population who aren’t wheelchair users, and who could be being prevented from accessing the services they need on a daily basis, including car parking spaces, restrooms and priority seating, because they do not appear to have a disability. By collaborating with charities and people with invisible disabilities, Visability93 has created an icon font comprising 29 new symbols of access for some of the most common invisible disabilities like arthritis and epilepsy.

The team is now handing over the free font to the design community to download, use and invent other symbols, with the hope that it will ignite a conversation around the visual language society uses to depict disability. The set is available on their site to download, along with a handy toilet sign for any enterprises wishing to give a universal message.

Dan Howarth, Head of Art at McCann London, says: “The fact that the ISA is 50 years old is the perfect time to start a conversation about change. These symbols are in no way a finished set – far from it. We urge our peers in the design community to get involved, add to them and help evolve the language we use to depict disability.”

“These new symbols are simple in their form and instantly recognisable to ensure we are communicating as widely and clearly as possible”, says Lisa Carrana, Deputy Head of Art at McCann London.

Have a look at all the icons yourself on the Visability93 site, and see what you can today with these new designs.

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