Gordon in the News: last updated 06/26/2014

Powerful Advocacy In Practice: Gordon's Impact In New York State Assembly

For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014

Media Contact
Cyndi McMahon

Albany, NY—Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and United States Senator David Carlucci held a press conference in New York yesterday regarding important legislation that would modernize the International Symbol of Access throughout New York State. The legislation calls for the elimination of the word 'handicapped' and changing the traditional wheelchair image to a new symbol as created by the Accessible Icon Project (AIP)—a grass roots advocacy campaign to update the disability icon. 

Senator Carlucci invited recent Gordon graduate Leah Serao '14, to the podium to share insights about why it is important to adopt a revamped international symbol of access. Serao, who double majored at Gordon in elementary education and linguistics with a concentration in special education, served in a leadership role for the AIP campaign during her student years, speaking at conferences and workshops.

The formation of the AIP first took root at Gordon College following two years of research in Gordon’s Philosophical Psychology Lab by faculty member Brian Glenney. A former graffiti artist, Glenney's scholarship focuses on perceptions, and how symbols affect conceptual categories. In 2009 while creating an art installation in a gallery on the Gordon campus, he met Sara Hendren, then a Harvard graduate student (now on the faculty at Olin College). Because of their shared scholarship interests, the two began to collaborate, giving shape what would become a new symbol to better represent people with disabilities.

“The most clear cases of technology and personhood in sync are individuals who use wheelchairs, but the ISA symbol seemed to focus more on what they could not do. That was a perception we wanted to change,” Glenney said. “We wanted to create a new symbol that would communicate to the world what people with disabilities can do. It was from that moment that the Accessible Icon Project quickly went from shared interests, to street art, to formal advocacy.”

The spirit of advocacy and support that followed carried this vision for change to New York City, an exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and other important partnerships around the globe. In a watershed moment, Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Carlucci introduced legislation in the New York State Assembly on May 19 to replace the "handicapped accessible" signs throughout the State with the revamped "accessible" signs, and called for the elimination of the word 'handicapped' from government communications . . . and the bill passed.

At the press conference yesterday, at which Alumna Serao spoke on behalf of the project, the bill's sponsors called on New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to place his signature on the bill passed by New York State Assembly. "There is a real excitement that grows with each new partnership," said Glenney. "The Accessible Icon Project has grown in strives. What was 'against' the law is 'becoming' a law in just three years. . .and this is only the beginning of an important conversation on access."

For information on the Accessible Icon Project, visit the AIP website or contact hosting agency Triangle, Inc. To speak with Dr. Glenney or Alumna Serao, contact the at Gordon College.