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Accessibility Signs on Campus

Posted on June 21st, 2019

I am excited to share a recent development in state law that impacts parking signage on our campuses. For many years, I have been following the development of what has come to be called “The Dynamic Symbol of Access,” a graphic design by Tim Ferguson Sauder, Brian Glenney, and Sarah Hendren. Adopted by New York, Connecticut, and now Ohio, the “Accessibility Icon” was even the subject of an exhibit at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York City.

Decision:

Effective July 3, 2019, Owens State Community College will comply with the new ORC language on Accessibility Signs from HB 62. This new law requires exactly what I requested in an e-mail I sent on May 30, 2019. Rather than put this in my own words, here is the language from the law:

9.54 [Effective 7/3/2019] Accessibility signs.
Whoever erects or replaces a sign containing the international symbol of access shall do both of the following:
(A) Use forms of the word “accessible” rather than forms of the words “handicapped” or “disabled” whenever words are included on the sign;
(B) For the international symbol of access, use a logo that depicts a dynamic character leaning forward with a sense of movement.
Amended by 133rd General Assembly File No. TBD, HB 62, §101.01, eff. 7/3/2019.
Added by 130th General Assembly File No. TBD, HB 483, §101.01, eff. 9/15/2014.
Note: This section is set out twice. See also § 9.54, effective until 7/3/2019.

As we re-stripe and replace signage in our parking lots, we will be using the word “accessible” and the dynamic logo. I am very excited about this development, and this is my determination as President of the College.

Background:

I recently had a very productive conversation with Kevin Miller, Director of the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Agency. Director Miller was very familiar with the legislative action on this matter in HB 62. I confirmed with him that not only is the legislature committed to the new language and logo, but his Agency and the DeWine administration are committed as well. The intent is that Ohio will join the other states that have become leaders on this issue. We discussed the mismatch between the states that have adopted the new logo and the Federal/international organizations. We also discussed the possibility of future litigation over the new language and signage. My conversation with Director Miller made me very confident that we should make a bold move forward with the new language in HB 62 that is cited above.

Here is a link to the actual House Bill 62 as it was adopted by the 133rd General Assembly; the provisions relevant to this discussion appear on pages 2 and 3. In addition, here is a link to a Concurrent Resolution (SCR 18) from the 132nd General Assembly that urges the US Congress to amend the ADA to adopt the dynamic character version of the international symbol of access. This was a bi-partisan resolution that passed with unanimous support. I was able to learn all of this with just a small amount of research.

I have been following the development of the dynamic symbol for several years. While content experts can have divergent views on just about any initiative, I want our team to know that I view this as a progressive step toward visually communicating a “people first” perspective on accessibility issues. This matters to me. The timing of HB 62 could not be more perfect, as it eliminates any ambiguity about what we should do regarding the language and the logo. It also demonstrates our commitment to visual literacy as a College.

Currently, it is not well known that Ohio will be joining NY, CT, and several US and Canadian municipalities in using the new logo. When I spoke with Director Miller, we discussed the potential for earned media stories about the new signs when they are erected. While we do not generally stencil symbols on asphalt, we may wish to do this in some spaces as part of an awareness campaign. I think this is a great opportunity to build awareness, dialogue, and create a “teachable moment” on this issue. As the signs go up, I may be working with our Marketing department to reach out to media to publicize this change.

Speaking of teachable moments, the subject of “people-first language” was the topic of Episode 5 of my “Teachable Moment” podcast. My guest on the program was Professor of Psychology Kristen Price, who taught me a number of aspects of this important topic. Toward the end of the podcast, which was recorded last October, we briefly discuss the Accessible Icon as an example of people-first language.

I look forward to seeing the new language and logo on our campuses very soon.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
President