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Officially known as the International Symbol of Access, the wheelchair icon is one of the most widely recognizable symbols used worldwide, denoting everything from accessible restrooms to reserved parking spots. The problem? It's an entirely passive symbol, lacking action or agency.
Aiming to rectify that, sports retailer Decathlon Canada worked with creative agency Rethink to design a new set of pictograms featuring people with physical disabilities playing sports — both highlighting their abilities and affirming Decathlon's mission of making sports accessible to all.
The icon set can be downloaded from AbilitySigns.ca and has been released under a Creative Commons licence for anyone to use. Specifically for Instagram, Decathlon also created stickers for modifying signs in photos, turning the standard 'person in a wheelchair' into someone playing tennis or boccia ball.
Decathlon isn't the first to recognize that the existing symbol doesn't do justice to people with physical disabilities. Accessible Icon has been sharing its own improved symbol for over a decade, featuring an active wheelchair user in motion.
Icons like the accessibility wheelchair are so ubiquitous that it's easy to forget they represent actual people. But symbols carry weight. Are you representing groups of people with icons that are in dire need of updating? If so: make that change, and follow Decathlon's lead by releasing your solutions free of rights.
Related: Our OMNIBILITY trend briefing — all about accessibility and how to turn barriers into innovations
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