International accessibility symbol (ISA) update

The now universally accepted, recognised and utilised International Symbol of Access (ISA) was first adopted in 1969. By the mid 80s the Symbol of Access had become embedded in the fabric of the urban landscape worldwide, contributing to the momentum of disability-inclusive development.

However, as the politics of disability have become more nuanced, particularly over the past decade or so, there has been a growing campaign for an updated version of the International Symbol. 

A modified version of the original ISA was created a decade ago by the Accessible Icon Project. The new logo was designed with a forward-leaning head and motioning arms indicating the wheelchair-using figure as the “driver” or decision maker about his / her / their mobility. Although adopted in some US states, the modified ISA sparked wider debate regarding the merits of the new versus old symbol amongst various activist organisations, including RI Global. The ISO argued against the new design, citing universal recognition of the original one.

In January 2022 the International Union of Architects (UIA) and Rehabilitation International (RI) launched a competition to find a twenty-first century symbol of accessibility that better represents the variety of people who use buildings and other types of built environments. The competition was open to architects and graphic designers (and students in both disciplines) to design a new graphic symbol of accessibility, to be proposed to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) for adoption as the new international symbol of accessibility. See all submitted designs.

The winning entry below was designed by Ukrainian architect Maksym Holovko. It was described by the competition jury (including Barry Gray, SDS former Treasurer and current Convenor of UK, ISO/TC 145/SC 1/WG/4 “Graphical Symbols”, and Chair of BSI Committee PH/8 Graphical Symbols and Signs) as “easily recognisable, demonstrating originality of form while indicating an openness, simply and powerfully conveyed using basic shapes and principles”.

Look out for the BSI Committee PH/8/2 Graphic Symbols’ ISA related stakeholder questionnaire, coming soon.