I’ve been thinking about the current International Symbol of Access sign, and bearing in mind only a small percentage of people with disability needs in their community use a wheelchair, it seems too limited. I also feel strongly aware that much impairment experienced is not even physical in nature, and the focus on mobility can be misleading and too narrow. There seems now also to be a greater awareness in our society of hidden disability, and the need to appreciate that impairment is often not very obvious.
My personal experience of osteoarthritis, which rendered me using a walking aid and being increasingly restricted in mobility for two years before having knee replacement surgery, also brought to my awareness, very acutely, that there are many people who have long term health condition which can affect them in ways which mean their independence and opportunities in life become vastly restricted. For me this gave me a wider appreciation of some limitations I would not otherwise have experienced. Finding myself in need of using an accessible toilet, for example, helped me to realise how inappropriate the existing symbol was.
So this symbol I show below (images are all at the end if viewing in mobile version)...my redesign of the International Symbol of Access, is inspired by my own need to rethink, and I have called the artwork (the signed print in a frame) “What Does This Symbol Say?”
Any thoughts on it are very welcome...
It’s something that comes out of my realisation that if the ISA was to change, this could have a powerful impact in many societies and open up dialogue and awareness in a very beneficial way.
Opportunities to rethink are intimately linked with with conversation about disability, and art is a key player in helping peoples awareness to increase through engaging with new ways of seeing and experiencing things. In my view, the focus for progression in all things needs to encompass a strong sense of moving forwards and upwards, and this new icon has this. I hope my creation of it contributes to the discourse on what disability is and could be through its presence and the reactions it produces.
Now I don’t use a walking aid, but I still have difficulty going down stairs, simply due to my unoperated knee. My experiences before knee replacement surgery, and afterwards, inspired some considerable writing: The Very Patient Knee Replacement Story by Jenny Meehan and I plan to tidy up what I wrote and publish a revised version at some point in the not too distant future.
Before my knee replacement I created this design "Angles and Edges" inspired by researching what surgeons need to do when fitting a metal prosthetic device in knee joint replacement surgery. Highly abstract, but still retaining some sense of the shape of the bone.
I then continued to work on the knee replacement design and came up with "Cutting Edge" Knee replacement design, which comes in two options, though I chose the black background for reproduction on redbubble.com.
"Cutting Edge" Knee replacement design with the black background for reproduction on redbubble.com.
You can buy quickly, easily and safely prints and other merchandise on the print-on-demand website redbubble.com.
It's great to be able to walk as much as I need to, and hard as it was, I did learn a lot through those couple of years before the surgical treatment of my knee. Looking back the biggest sense was realising my life had become like a funnel... I was becoming increasingly restricted and able to do less and less physically. It was also very depressing. The increasing awareness that I was living in an environment designed for the able bodied, and at times, ever increasingly, this restricted my opportunities.
I had never thought about it before, but I began to realise something which many have asserted for a long time: Disability is the result of the way a person (often, but not always) with an impairment is treated by society. A person is disabled, not by their condition, but by the way society reacts to that condition and fails to accommodate to it.
To change the International Symbol of Access has the potential to make a huge difference to a lot of people, because it will open up peoples eyes, increase awareness and create better understanding. Changing the symbol could be just one factor, but a significant one, I feel, in moving society forwards in a positive way.
While the International Symbol of Access is most often seen/used to demarcate differences in physical facilities, I think it’s dated, and to review it and consider adapting it to fit in with the more progressive awareness of our current time would be a positive move forward. To change it would also open up much discussion and give people who do experience disability, in many ways, opportunities to educate those who may not have invested time in thinking about the matter. This opening up of dialogue is good for everyone.
Note: I’ve used both “people with disabilities” and “disabled people”. I’m aware there is debate about this. Each term has its merits.
On jamartlondon the bulk of the work I include is my painting, which is best described as being in the style/category of lyrical abstraction.
There's another strand of artworking I engage in; less publicized; where I do use pictoral elements, drawing, and graphical elements in a symbolic way, which I enjoy very much.
So on this page, here is a recent piece of work. As with all things, stemming from life experiences.