Changing attitudes re: disabilities through graphic design

This new handicapped sign will appear in New York City this summer.
Image courtesy NPR

Can a simple change to a public sign change how we perceive people with disabilities?

Sarah Hendren thinks so. The Harvard graduate design student is the co-creator of a guerrilla street art project, replacing old 'wheelchair accessible' signs with something a little more... well, mobile.

Image courtesy NPR

National Public Radio reports the sign has already had an impact.

It might not seem like much of a difference, but it was enough to fire up a young man with cerebral palsy named Brendon Hildreth, who uses a wheelchair. He and Hendren met as the project gained momentum, and the North Carolina 22-year-old adopted the icon as his own.

Hendren says Hildreth has become a kind of one-man machine around this symbol. He's made t-shirts with his family and has invited local businesses and institutions to change their signage.

Hildreth can only speak through a machine that he types into, and people have looked at him differently all his life.

"He's someone who has been treated as though he had less of a complex and interesting life and wishes for his future," Hendren says.

Sarah Hendren went all over Boston, putting stickers of her new image over the more familiar symbol.

The guerrilla art campaign, while illegal, is quickly making its way into legitimate signage. This summer all five boroughs of New York City will replace the older, more staid image with Hendren's.

Read the full story here.

MPR News is Reader Funded

Before you keep reading, take a moment to donate to MPR News. Your financial support ensures that factual and trusted news and context remain accessible to all.