New Symbols Make Me Look Again

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Watch out bipeds!

I noticed the new handicap-accessible parking signs a couple of weeks ago and my first thought was, “Alright, wheelchair racer parking!” It seemed like a great update to a subtle message I had never considered: “wheelchair bound” to “Clear to way, silly bipeds!” I don’t mean to make light of the reality of someone who needs a wheelchair, but this symbol put a new slant on that reality.

It turns out this is still a local phenomenon: the symbol is the result of some creative collaboration and more importantly, a whole covert graffiti project in Boston. New York is the first to adopt to symbol state-wide, though it will take some time to roll out…pun intended.

This may seem like a cosmetic change, but the handicapped parking sign is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in our daily life. We see it every time we park, which for an American over sixteen is more than is really healthy. The new symbol, with the torso bent forward and the arm raised to pump the wheel, empowers instead of just…indicating. These subtle cues affect how we see the world, and this is a better way to see the people around us.

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