Attempts to offer accommodation or alter two ADA pictograms have not been received with open arms

Gender-Neutral Restroom Signs


The issue of providing gender-neutral accommodation in public restrooms has certainly been big news lately.  And in the rush to provide said accommodation amidst a patchwork of laws and ordinances, the issue of appropriate signage has come to the fore.

One design getting some traction is shown here at right. However, a recent article on calls into question the half-man/half-woman pictogram shown here:

Trans community member discomfort often comes with that third gender pictogram of a half-man/half-woman. Perhaps the best way to show inclusivity isn’t to include the half-man/half-woman pictogram on the ADA compliant sign. Trans positive language of “ALL GENDER RESTROOM” or “GENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOM” with just the standard male, female and disability pictograms would certainly be welcomed without the half-man/half-woman pictogram.

Proposed change to handicap signage

There has been a movement afoot to revamp the universal and ubiquitous handicap symbol to emphasize ability over disability.  But, according to CBS News, the Federal Highway Administration is rejecting requests for the “alternative dynamic design” citing the universal recognition of the original design.


And speaking of universal, so it appears is resistance to the change according to the CBS News article:

Elizabeth Guffey, a professor of art and design history at State University of New York at Purchase … who is disabled and writing a book on the symbol's history, said there's been a backlash in the United Kingdom, where some view the revamp as American political correctness. Meanwhile, some countries have a reputation for misusing the original symbol, placing them in locations that are not handicapped accessible.

CBS goes on to say that the Swiss-based IOS, the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards, has said it makes sense to keep the well-known international symbol given the growth in international trade, travel and tourism.

Contemplating the UK’s resistance to “American political correctness,” it’s important to weigh the cost of compliance if the new, racier “ability” symbol was adopted.  Given the old symbol’s ubiquity, such a changeover would cost billions, and where the activists might cry “damn the expense,” economic pragmatism is likely lurking in the back of the mind for the folks at IOS.

Back around 400 BC, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was credited with saying, “Nothing endures but change.” We would only add that controversy endures hand in hand with it.

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