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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”

It’s time to design #InclusiveSymbols

[2 minute read]

Good design can make the world a better place. Living this belief has led to our latest project to design a new set of symbols for people with dementia.

The fresh new set of symbols is part of the drive to empower and enable independence for those living with dementia. Beyond this, the new inclusive symbols will be more effective for everyone right across society, in all public places – clear, easy to understand and relevant to people’s everyday lives.

How we got here

In the knowledge that the ageing population is fast becoming one of the biggest challenges facing society, we sensed an opportunity to help empower older people and those with dementia.

The idea to explore and consider the design of symbols was inspired by participants in a workshop discussing the design of toilet signage. Henry Rankin, Chair of the Scottish Dementia Working Group, sowed the seed when he pointed out that the male and female toilet symbols often appear ambiguous and too similar.

A symbol is simply a mark or thing that stands for something else. The toilet symbol is a ‘learned’ symbol that clearly doesn’t visually represent the function of the room, and so it can be difficult to understand for people with any cognitive impairment.

So, we wondered if any other everyday symbols might be confusing or misunderstood. From signs in the train station, to information in brochures and websites, symbols appear in a variety of contexts in our day-to-day lives.

Some really interesting pointers came from our scoping exercise of existing symbols, for example the ‘P’ symbol that represents Parking is used consistently across the globe, even in countries where the word for parking doesn’t begin with ‘P’.

With the focus groups and scoping exercise complete, it’s over to the team here at StudioLR to start the concept design for each of the new symbols.

Watch this space . . . #InclusiveSymbols

Follow our progress here on our blog and on Twitter (@StudioLR_Lucy). We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment below.


About the project

In 2016 the Life Changes Trust solely funded StudioLR to conduct a research project across Scotland with a ‘Life Changes Trust Award’, followed by additional funding in 2017 to support the re-design and evaluation of 15 everyday symbols. The project is expected to conclude with a new set of symbols made available free for all to use in August 2018. The Life Changes Trust is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. StudioLR worked with support from the University of Edinburgh.

Feasbility study available for download here: Inclusive Symbols Report Final


Who the LR we?

We’re always looking for ways we can use our skills and experience to improve people’s everyday experiences and make a positive impact on the whole of society. On every project, we start by thinking about the impact our work will have on how people feel.