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StudioLR any disability symbol, copyright StudioLR 2019

New ‘Any Disability’ symbol launched at Commons debate

Building on the campaign by Grace Warnock, StudioLR (funded by Life Changes Trust) has designed a new ‘Any Disability’ symbol to encourage awareness of people with invisible disabilities.

Today (Wednesday 5th June), Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian, will lead a Commons debate on invisible disabilities and accessibility challenges.

The debate in the Commons’ Main Chamber will also see the formal launch a new Any Disability symbol to more accurately represent the full range of people with various disabilities who use accessible toilets and other facilities.

The development of the new sign was inspired by the success of the Grace’s Sign campaign, developed by Mr Whitfield’s constituent Grace Warnock, a pupil at Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans. Grace, who has Crohn’s Disease, designed her sign following her own experience of using accessible toilets, including receiving negative remarks from adults who did not appreciate or understand her disability.

Grace has received high level recognition for her inspirational campaign, including a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister and a British Citizen Youth Award.

The new Any Disability symbol has been designed by StudioLR as an evolution of Grace’s Sign with the aim of becoming recognised by the British Standards Institution as the generally accepted sign for accessible facilities, including toilets, parking areas and assistance points.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Martin Whitfield MP said:

The impact of accessibility challenges faced by those living with ‘invisible’ disabilities has too often been overlooked or ignored.

“However, thanks to the dedicated work of numerous charities and inspirational individual campaigners like Grace Warnock, the issue is finally starting to receive the attention it deserves.

“This Commons debate will provide another opportunity for MPs to speak out on behalf of their constituents who live with hidden disabilities and describe the challenges and negative responses they can experience while going about their daily lives.

“I hope the debate will help to increase awareness around these complicated issues and lead to greater understanding about the daily challenges faced by so many people living with a wide range of conditions.”

Lucy Richards,  Creative Director at StudioLR, who designed the new sign, said:

“The wheelchair symbol is commonly used on accessible toilet signs and Blue Badge parking permits, however this symbol doesn’t represent the people with wide-ranging impairments who use these facilities and services. 

Having followed Grace Warnock’s campaign to raise awareness that some people who use accessible toilets have an invisible disability (for instance Crohn’s disease or dementia) the design team at StudioLR saw an opportunity to build on this. With a Life Changes Trust Award (funded by the National Lottery Community Fund) StudioLR has conceived, designed and tested a new, inclusive symbol that can be rolled out across toilets, parking signs and assistance points. Testing was facilitated by Innovations in Dementia.

We created the new Any Disability symbol because people with a hidden disability have the right to access facilities and services without having to explain their personal circumstances. It’s about building awareness as well as preventing prejudice.”

Grace Warnock said:

“The story of my sign came from my own experience of an adult questioning my use of an accessible toilet this ignorance drove me to design the first Grace’s Sign to educate others on invisible disabilities and to encourage everyone to have a heart”

Inclusive symbols concept design and testing feedback

Following on from the concept workshops, we’ve been busy developing the design for each symbol including a number of options which were tested with groups of people living with dementia.


Concept design phase

Getting into the design we quickly realised there were many different route to explore. After a series of iterations, we developed four options for each symbol to test various factors that could make the symbols more easily understood by people with dementia i.e. showing perspective, including people/figures ‘doing’ the action, shaded flooring.

We considered the styling of the ‘symbol people’ – if they should be ‘morph like’, if they should have necks, or if they should be more human in feature, showing details like clothing and hair. We varied their level of movement, the number of people interacting with each environment, and their activity in each context.

Environments were explored in perspective as well as elevation/straight on, and shading on floors and on objects like toilet seats were visualised to gauge people’s understanding. And we changed the scale on some symbols to see how much information is needed, on close up items like a hand on a door as well as entire rooms and the whole shape of an escalator.

The testing stimulus was prepared as A3 sheets with four options for each symbol alongside the relevant current symbol, and a ‘wash up sheet’ of alternative existing options to help stimulate the discussion. Facilitated by Steve Milton, Director of Innovations in Dementia, these sheets were used to evaluate the legibility and understanding of each of the concepts with groups of people living with dementia across a number of locations. The sessions were recorded and subsequently transcribed.


Testing and feedback

The symbol concepts were tested with 39 people of varying ages and stages of dementia. 33 of these were across five groups and there were six 1-2-1 interviews. Groups were consulted in Shrewsbury, Liverpool, Glasgow, Canterbury and Salisbury. Five interviews took place face-to-face in Stockwell and one via teleconferencing in Salford.

There was an overall enthusiasm from participants to feedback their views on something ‘practical’ rather than policy based that will impact positively on people’s everyday life.

Key learnings:

People

Feedback overview:

‘Morph’ figure (on the left) was generally preferred as people found it clearer/simpler.

Male / Female / Accessible Toilet

Feedback overview:

Everyone recognised this as a toilet.

Symbol ‘B’ in perspective with shaded flooring was unanimously preferred and the white figure on black background was least preferred.

Escalator

Feedback overview:

Although ‘C’ got the highest number of votes, there was a preference for whole shape
of escalator handrail to differentiate it from stairs. The rounded shape also implies movement which is helpful. The two people interacting with the escalator in ‘A’ and ‘C’ was well liked. Maybe we could develop ‘A’ in 3D with perspective. Many liked the idea of adding an arrow going up, or down for a different version of the symbol, to emphasise the indication of movement.

Exit

Feedback overview:

There was a clear preference for ‘C’ showing perspective noting that the person should be clearly stepping from one space to another, rather than walking past the door. The tree and cloud were identified as representing the ‘outside’ and this was liked, as if moving from one environment to another. The floor shading could be understood better if lower down, so less like the person is in water.

Lift

Feedback overview:

There was a clear preference for ‘D’ showing perspective, doors and shading within lift.  There was absolute consensus that the people interacting are important to the understanding of this symbol. There were comments about the button increasing in size!

Stairs

Feedback overview:

Everyone recognized the options as stairs. Although ‘B’ got the highest number of votes, there was a preference for whole shape of the staircase as shown in ‘A’. Everyone agreed that the handrail helped them feel reassured.

Parking

Feedback overview:

Almost everyone recognised this as parking and there was a unanimous preference for  the simplicity of ‘C’. Some of the options i.e. ‘B’ showed too much information and detail which was confusing for people.

Information

Feedback overview:

None of the options shown were popular. Concensus was for the original ‘i’ symbol to be retained.

Tickets

Feedback overview:

Much discussion was had about whether the symbols represent buying or or showing the ticket. In the end ‘A’ was agreed the most popular.

Priority Seating

Feedback overview:

Symbol ‘C’ was preferred and most people identified this as a seat for people who
need it. It was pointed out that, for example on buses, there is a space reserved for wheelchair users so we don’t need to include the wheelchair access symbol. We need careful development of the wording to support understanding of this symbol.

Waiting Area

Feedback overview:

Symbol ‘C’ was the clear preference because of its simplicity and perspective. The doorway through to another room wasn’t necessary. Everyone found the seated people helpful to the meaning, though they should look less rigid and more active. The clock (with no time shown) could be included as it was popular with most participants.

Fire Escape

Feedback overview:

The perspective of symbol ‘C’ was preferred, with the fire from symbols ‘A/B’. It would make sense to include the outside elements from the previous Exit symbol, as well as movement of the person from one space to another.

Wheelchair Access

Feedback overview:

Everyone correctly identified this and ‘A’ gained the majority of votes. Some pointed out that the person was controlling their own chair rather than being pushed as in the existing symbol. Some felt an attachment to the existing symbol and questioned whether we need to update the design of the symbol at all.

Hidden Disability

Feedback overview:

Most weren’t able to identify any of the options shown but for those who recognised some sort of need, symbol ‘D’ was preferred. Adding colour (red) to the cross at the next design phase may be helpful to the understanding around ‘health’. Careful consideration of the words that support this symbol is needed to aid understanding.


Next Steps

Our next step is to look at the user testing feedback in detail to develop and refine the design of each symbol.

We’ll consider the impact for the user of language and colour – which words that accompany symbols are most easily understood i.e. toilet / restroom / ladies /  WC / public convenience.

The trickiest words to consider and resolve will be ‘Priority Seating’ and ‘Hidden Disability’ and we will be working with language strategist Ben Afia https://www.benafia.com to develop some options for testing at the next phase.

We will also consider colour i.e. does a green exit symbol or a blue parking symbol effect its communication?

The design development will lead into the next phase of testing with new groups of people in July.