New signs are step in right direction for disabled community, advocate says

Disabled community hopes current and future adoption of signs around the country is a stepping stone toward changing mindsets

Changing Signs Changing Minds sign. (Disability Network Michigan)

The signs are everywhere and overall, haven’t been a proper representation of the disabled community.

Whether it’s on sign posts, restroom doors or painted on parking lots, the look of accessibility signs have showed someone sitting in a wheelchair or using the word “handicapped” are seen by so many each day.

That’s not how the disabled community should be depicted, and Alex Gossage, vice chair of Disability Network/Michigan Board of Directors, and executive director of Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, said it’s important that mindsets are changed.

“The signs are one example of what we can do to help eliminate the attitudinal barriers that exist,” Gossage said.

Because of that, he’s pleased to see recent efforts nationally that are about to enact needed change.

In Michigan, a law was passed on July 27 to change the look of accessibility signs across the state in parking lots, near doorways and on restroom doors in that state.

The signs are required to depict a character leaning forward in a wheelchair “with a sense of movement.” On the signs will also be either a light symbol on a blue background, or a blue symbol on a light background.

Even better is that it could just be the beginning to changing the mindset people have toward the disabled community.

Gossage added he hopes this measure will be a stepping stone to others that help the disabled community not only in Michigan, but around the country.

“The fact that we are having these conversations with such understanding, it definitely feels like this new law is just the beginning for other changes that we seek (such as) greater accessibility at the election polls, etc,” he said. “We certainly intend to continue the momentum created by these changes and continue our conversations.”

According to a release when the law in Michigan was passed, businesses will not be required to replace their signs immediately. They will just have to use the updated signage when they’re replacing old signs or putting up new signs.

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Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.