Wesleyan is an extremely active campus committed to social justice and change. However, all too often the issue of disability rights is overlooked and forgotten despite 12 percent of the Wesleyan undergraduate population being registered in the Office of Disability Resources. Over the past few years within the disabled persons and disability rights community there has been an urge for a change to the current accessibility sign to an updated version that depicts those in need of accessibility accommodations in a more positive light.
The previous sign portrays a lifeless, dependent, and stagnant person bound to their chair, whereas the new sign clearly conveys movement, autonomy, and a distinctly human individual. What started as a grassroots, guerrilla, street art initiative turned into an internationally recognized campaign that quickly gained traction. Now, many locations across the world have adopted the new signage including the state of New York; Cambridge, MA; El Paso, TX; Phoenix, AZ; Tito, Italy; and countless others. Some colleges have also chosen to replace their old signs, beginning with Gordon College in 2012. Clearly, Wesleyan is behind in modernizing our campus’ accessibility signs as well as acknowledging our lack of commitment to both disability rights overall and 12 percent of our community.
It is imperative that this change is met not only with a physical improvement of the signage around campus, but more importantly with a conscious questioning of our perceptions of people with disabilities. The current sign is the most widespread representation given to those with disabilities, yet the resulting stigma is commonly accompanied with words such as “broken,” “passive,” and “reliant.” There is a definite need for a shift in perception and through the implementation of a more favorable and accurate depiction, the conversation can begin, though it will require more education and action.
By Emma Austin ‘19