Which Accessibility Icon to Use

Accessible parking symbolBy Helen Sullivan

IPMI members have asked me which symbol to use to mark an accessible parking spot.

Good question! I strongly recommend—without hesitation—using the traditional, upright icon to mark accessible parking spots.

There is a movement to switch from the traditional accessibility icon for parking signs to one that features the icon angled forward. Several states and a few cities have adopted the forward leaning symbol, however, parking and mobility professionals should be aware that to meet federal guidelines, the traditional accessibility icon must be used.

I understand that to some, the forward leaning symbol connotes action, ability, and empowerment for people with disabilities, but there are other advocates for individuals who disagree. I understand the pros and cons. At the Accessible Parking Coalition, we originally incorporated the forward leaning icon into our logo, only to be advised by APC founding member and friend David Capozzi, executive director of the U.S. Access Board, that we needed to change that—and fast—to avoid confusion within the industry! In fact, the U.S. Access Board issued a news release in 2017 to clear up the issue definitively.

At this time, based on the current U.S. Access Board guidelines, the traditional icon of the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) is the one to use to ensure accessible spaces meet federal regulations, including those issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, this presents complications in cities and states that require use of the other symbol. Should anything change, I promise to let you know!

Helen Sullivan is director of the IPMI-led Accessible Parking Coalition.