International Symbol of Accessibility
By the late 1960s, as the disability movement grew, the need for a symbol to designate accessible facilities was being discussed in a number of countries. Different access symbols had already popped up in France, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. As former RI Global Secretary-General Norman Acton recalled, “several of us could see a messy situation developing with multiple symbols – so there was some urgency.”
Acton asked Karl Montan, first Director of the Swedish Handicap Institute and Chair of the RI International Commission for Technical Aids (ICTA), if the commission could come up with a practical symbol that was readily identifiable from a reasonable distance, self-descriptive, simple yet esthetically designed with no secondary meaning. Ms. Susanne Koefoed, a Danish graphic design student, submitted the winning design, a simple motif of a stick figure using a wheelchair to indicate barrier-free access. After some modifications, including ‘humanizing’ it by adding a circle to the top of the seated figure for a “head”, the World Congress formally adopted the International Symbol of Access in 1969.