Thursday, 21 February 2013
The Start of The Stick Man that Sits on a Circle
Recently, I read an article that purported to know the origins of The Wheelchair Symbol. Published in the Huffington Post--a credible site that mixes blogging, opinion, and current events in a fashion that creates an atmosphere of social liberation for all-- I expected something factually juicy, at very the least. I wanted to read that the stick figure sitting on the three-quarters circle had received much judgement at first, because people would rather a boy with his hand in cap . I wanted to discover that upon first suggestion, people were adamantly opposed to even recognizing people with disabilities.
But the story is much simpler. With almost no adversity, as if it was taken straight from a children’s story book, the wheelchair symbol was birthed from a favour done by the Director of Swedish Handicap Institute in the 60s.
According to HuffPost, the original artist submitted a picture of a bright-white stick-figured wheelie on a negatively black background. Differing from its now universally accepted version, this symbol featured a wheelie that was exceptionally close up--so much so that it had no visible head or limb below the knee--much like a too-close photograph that one might accidentally take of their own nose while trying to capture their smiling face. It sat like a mistaken photograph, and the acceptors of the first-draft symbol fixed it up in such a way that they believed ‘humanized’ the figure.
Humanized? How about, “brought it into focus”? I think its spectacularly liberating that they’ve decided to add a head and shins to a stick figure. How kind of them. If I pin my hair back and turn sideways I’m sure that the stickman symbol and I are almost complete replicas. Kudos to the able-bodies who finally decided on the stamp of human approval by giving us a stick figure. Way to represent.
Newer visions of how people with physical disabilities should be symbolized include:
-A bent arm, propelling a wheelchair, meant to show an active disabled person, instead of a lounging one. And,
-A stick arm which appears to be shooting out like a wing from the stickman’s torso, representing self-propelling at a very fast pace.
Essentially, these more modern symbols are an attempt to show disabled people’s equality, but in my opinion, the standards by which they do it are an impossible contradiction. Think about it. Someone with limited mobility, is symbolically measured by their physical mobility. What a paradox.
So, you still want to be seen as a person--a full-fledged stick figure--and yet people are still measuring you by whether or not your stick arm can push your unsupported stick-wheel? Go figure.
The saddest thing about all of this is that promoters of the newer able-centric symbol find it wonderfully progressive, saying things like, “eventually we won’t need a symbol at all” with the assumption that all spaces will be available to all ability levels.
In my opinion, viewing disability as one big holistic accessibility party creates an air of ignorance that overlooks the needs of those with specific disabilities. And rating disability by the super-crip standards of magically self-propelled disabled people is one step further into ignorance, no matter how much good intent is present.