Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Symbolizing Disability / Accessibility - how about using the Universal Quanitifier which means - "for all"?

I recently read Joe Clarke's article about Symbolizing Accessibility and was interested to note that the international symbol of disability is a person in a wheelchair and this is really the only general symbol there is (and I believe even some wheelchair users find this offensive).

For the work I am doing I need to denote people with accessibility needs and it seems wrong to use a wheelchair to denote someone who has dyslexia!

There are specific symbols for blindness or deafness but there really is nothing that is general purpose.

Joe talks about the Apple Mac icon which he believes recalls Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Joe called this his winning idea.

Anyhow, over the weekend I had an idea of my own, how about this symbol?

This is Universal Quantification in Predicate Logic, known in formally as the symbol representing For All. Isn't that exactly the kind of thing we want a universal accessibility symbol to say?

It has a number of advantages:
- the symbol is readily available in unicode 0x2200;
- the symbol already means 'for all'
- the language of mathematics is fairly internationalized so this probably means 'for all' in every language in the world;
- it looks a bit like an 'A' (at least to dyslexic people like me!) and that should make it easy to remember as representing 'accessibility'
- if we borrowed it to mean accessibility it is unlikely to get confused with its mathematical context of use (apart from in some fairly peculiar situations).

So, what do you think?


Blogger Daniel Cassidy said...

Well, let’s see.

* Already has an accepted meaning that is nearly what we want.
* Looks like a capital A, which could be taken as an initialism for ‘access’, or ‘accessibility’.
* Doesn’t inappropriately single out particular groups.

* The symbol can be read ‘for all’ in English, but it doesn’t really mean ‘for all’ in the sense you mean it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the reading in other languages is quite different.
* Most people don’t understand predicate logic and will just take the symbol as an upside down A, with no special meaning.
* ‘A’ isn’t an initialism for ‘access’ in any language other than English.
* The sort of people who are likely to take offence at the use of a wheelchair icon are equally likely to take offence at the implication that disabled people can’t write letters the right way up.
* The Vitruvian Man is prettier.

I like the idea but unfortunately I’m inclined to think that the cons outweigh the pros.

(I find it slightly ironic that the wheelchair icon appears next to the word verification in Blogger’s comment interface).

3:43 AM  

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