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Apple Accessibility Icon History

Yesterday, I wrote that I’ve created the digital Accessibility Advocate badge. When I was creating the badge, I had a hard time deciding on what symbol I wanted to put on the badge to signify “accessibility”. Today I did a moment of Googling and found that I’m not the only one in my struggles.

In the early days of my Googling, I found an interesting story about the icons/symbols that relate to accessibility that Joe Clark has posted on his site. It seems that he created this site in the early 2000s, and then updated it throughout a decade, which ended about 10 years earlier. In his review,

“After half a decade of attempts and a misapplication of the ‘classic’ wheelchair icon, we finally have something that might work as a generic indicator of accessibility – from Apple, of all places.”

He’s referring to the symbol that looks like my badge. my badge: the figure with arms stretched out within a circle, which Joe says is reminiscent of da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”. As Clark points out, although it is widely acknowledged, the issue is to distill the idea that is “accessibility” down to one symbol. According to Clark, the Apple symbol is intended to symbolize the idea that is “universal access”, but I’ve been having a difficult time finding out the history of its symbol.

I’m using I have a MacBook which is why when I came across the icon below at the Noun Project website within my lookup of the “accessibility” icon, I thought it was a “generic” symbol as that’s the symbol used to symbolize accessibility features in a Mac. But now, I’d like to find out more. Does this really “Apple’s icon” – as in, do they have the copyright? Do you think it’s a suitable symbol for accessibility? As discussed in the criticisms regarding “the “classic” blue wheelchair, what is the meaning of the symbol for people with disabilities? What does the symbol mean by accessibility concerning education (e.g. using computers/internets, accessible websites, and so on.)? What are the symbols or icons that others use?

In an article from 2013, Huffington Post article I found that was titled “Reimagining Accessibility and the Wheelchair Symbol” by David Onley, his historical explanation of the symbol takes you through the few twists that lead back toward the Apple icon and ends by requesting Ontario College of Art and Design University. Ontario College of Art and Design University to hold an international contest “to find a contemporary symbol or set of symbols that will achieve the same global recognition as the International Symbol of Access.” The article concluded with the hashtag #AccessSign which was tweeted on Twitter.

At this point, I’m completely interested I looked through the Twitter feeds tagged #AccessSign (most were from the period of the 2013 contest) and came across a CBC article stating that the contest ended without a winner! This is now in the deep. Because I have “real” work to do today, my digging may need to stop today, but what’s the most recent information on the use of icons and symbols to signify accessibility?

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