Merriam has become the first city in the Midwest to adopt a more contemporary version of the wheelchair-accessible icon. At a town hall meeting Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to replace the old icon, which has been in use since 1968.
“I have to give the city council credit for that because they believed in that and they wanted to welcome disabled people into the community," says Al Frisby, the councilman who proposed the change after a friend, Finn Bullers, called the new icon to his attention.
Bullers, a former reporter for The Kansas City Star, now works as the Midwest coordinator for the Accessible Icon Project (AIP), the group behind the new icon.
The AIP symbol features a figure leaning forward in a wheelchair rather than sitting back, suggesting people in wheelchairs are active, energetic, and capable.
It was created in 2012 by Brian Glenney, a graffiti artist-turned-philosophy professor, and Sara Hendren a designer and activist, in Boston. Since then the Accessible Icon Project has gone global. It has been adopted by New York City, cities in Massachusetts and North Carolina, and in parts of India, the United Kingdom and France.
Frisby says the Accessible Icon Project also approached Kansas City, Mo., about changing its signs, but Merriam acted first.
"We beat 'em! We're the first city in the Midwest to do this, and we're very proud of it," he says.
All 40 signs in Merriam will be replaced with the new icon in the next month, starting with the one outside City Hall.