Effectiveness of the International Symbol of Access and inclusivity of other disability groups

Academic Article


  • Background: The International Symbol of Access (ISA) is recognized world-wide for designating and identifying areas which are wheelchair accessible, however its meaning has evolved to include both restricted use and universal accessibility. Objective: This study seeks to investigate the effectiveness of the ISA in representing individuals of all impairment types. Methods: A mixed-method survey was disseminated in the U.S. and internationally to persons without self-identified impairment and individuals of various impairment group types, including mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive impairments, using convenience sampling (n = 981). Quantitative data was analyzed using ranking patterns and regression analysis. Qualitative data was analyzed using thematic analysis and triangulation. Results: Participants with self-identified mobility impairments rated the ISA more favorably than other disability groups (p = 0.002). In addition, there is a significant correlation between age and effectiveness of the ISA, with participants rating the symbol more favorably as age increases. Common themes included association of the ISA with a mobility impairment, implications for restricted use or reserved space, and physical accessibility. Conclusions: The ISA is not effective in representing individuals with non-mobility impairments and its ambiguous nature leads to confusion for both persons with and without impairment.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Vice J; Barstow BA; Bowman S; Mehta T; Padalabalanarayanan S
  • Volume

  • 13
  • Issue

  • 1