I recently read an article from CBS News – Toronto, about a Canadian man who is lobbying the Ontario government to amend the Building Code and Highway Traffic Act to incorporate a new accessibility symbol. This symbol is more dynamic than the existing symbol used on signage indicating accessible parking spaces, automatic door actuators, and other accessibility features. The driving force behind this change is the Accessible Icon Project, which began in Boston and has gone global, leading some US cities and states to mandate use of the new symbol.
The dynamic symbol is already required for new installations in Connecticut and New York. The Connecticut law reads, in part:
“Not later than January 1,2017, the Commissioner of Administrative Services shall promulgate a policy and adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes, designating the symbol of access to be used on signage indicating access for persons with disabilities. Such symbol shall depict a logo with a dynamic character leaning forward with a sense of movement, be readily identifiable and be simply designed with no secondary meaning. Such symbol shall signify equivalent facilitation and accessibility as the previously used international symbol of access.”
The New York law went into effect in November of 2014, and this article from Seyfarth Shaw talks about the conflict created by New York’s requirement to use the dynamic symbol, vs. the ADA requirement to use the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA). The US Access Board recently issued some guidance on this topic (you can read the complete bulletin here):
“While the ADA Standards do not recognize specific substitutes for the ISA, they do generally allow alternatives to prescribed requirements that provide substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability under a provision known as ‘equivalent facilitation.’ However, in the event of a legal challenge, the entity pursuing an alternative has the burden of proof in demonstrating equivalent facilitation. Under the ABA Standards, use of a symbol other than the ISA requires issuance of a modification or waiver by the appropriate standard-setting agency.”
For those of us who specify and supply products that include an accessibility symbol (like actuators for automatic operators), the new symbol may be required, depending on the laws and accessibility standards of the state where the project is located. However, not all agencies have approved the new design, and some jurisdictions may not accept the new symbol, so it remains to be seen whether this will become a nationwide standard.