February 03, 2008

Hermaphrodites In Wheelchairs

Have you ever noticed that the same universal symbol for accessibility is on both the male and female bathrooms and that this icon is used to represent both sexes of people with disabilities? This hermaphroditic symbol is usually placed standing near the universality accepted icons for male or female, and no matter who or what it stands near is always depicted the same way. although we are aware that this stand in for a person with a physical complication represents that the bathroom or changing room may or may not be accessible sometimes I wonder if our subconscious views it differently and that it may actually represent the view point of our society the persons with different physical needs are entities that are neither male nor female.

In my opinions this icon is no longer necessary in indoor contexts. The Americans with disabilities act of 1990 made it so that most public buildings must either be built to certain standards or they should be upgraded to the standards set by the act, and that the fact that this hermaphroditic icon is used at all in my opinion shows that we as a culture are not taking the issues surrounding the disabled rights movement seriously. For example in my life I have noticed that most rooms that they put this symbol near or on are barely usable buy persons like my self and that this icon is purely used as a way to show that the area in question has an area dedicated for wheelchair users. The doors of theses rooms are usually no more or less usable than most doors in the building, and that in most cases the dedicated stall in the bathroom is the only stall in the room and this in turn makes the fact that they feel the need to show that the room has an accessible toilet or sink unnecessary, and redundant.

I would like to propose that we as a culture rid our selves of this icon, that we start taking the Americans with disabilities act seriously and start actually making buildings accessible, because no amount of symbolism will make a structure wheelchair friendly, and if an entry point or part of a construction is usable by everyone that this fact will be obvious by the users of the building.

In conclusion I would like to state that unless a room or door is to be used only by hermaphrodites in wheelchairs that the universal accessibility icon should never be used in any in door context, that we as a society start taking our anti-discrimination laws seriously, and that we should encourage both architects and the people that commission both governmental and corporate buildings to design buildings that have no need for these useless icon.

- thaniel ion lee


Devorella said...

In a society where people with disabilities are often thought of as asexual beings, a gender neutral symbol does seem a bit insulting. But frankly sometimes I wish society was a bit more gender neutral! Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if female politicians could be judged by the content of their platforms rather than the cut of their skirts?

Thaniel said...

i agree.