Designers Raising Awareness for Invisible Disabilities by Reimagining International Symbol of Access

Designers Raising Awareness for Invisible Disabilities by Reimagining International Symbol of Access

Visability 93 has released an icon font to inspire the design community to invent a universal symbol that represents all people with disabilities, visible or invisible - not just wheelchair users. The font was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the International Symbol of Access (ISA).

The ISA - the blue square overlaid in white with the outline of a person in a wheelchair - is the only internationally recognised symbol to help people with disabilities identify accessible services. Visability93 was set up by a team of creatives from McCann London, many of whom have loved ones with invisible disabilities, which are not immediately apparent, because they believe the ISA does not cater for all people with disabilities.

In the UK, for instance, wheelchair users make up only 5-7% of the disabled population. As such, many people with less visible disabilities 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. 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 fact that the ISA is 50 years old is the perfect time to start a conversation about change," said Dan Howarth, Head of Art at McCann London. "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. Our ambition is that different communities, whether design, charity, people with disabilities and the public, come together to create a new ISA that is inclusive of all people with disabilities."

"Creating a visual language that could help build awareness on invisible disabilities is something close to my heart," added Lisa Carrana, Deputy Head of Art at McCann London. "My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease three years ago and as her primary care giver, I have witnessed first-hand her struggle. These new symbols are simple in their form and instantly recognisable to ensure we are communicating as widely and clearly as possible."

The campaign coincides with the UK government announcing that it is embarking on its biggest overhaul of the Blue Badge scheme in 40 years. The scheme, which grants accessible parking to people who find travel difficult, will be offered to people with invisible disabilities, as well as physical ones.