Vancouver Island University (VIU), has adopted a new, more empowered version of the accessible icon that has been the symbol for people with disabilities across the world.

Several parking lots have already been repainted with the new symbol, which depicts an individual leaning forward in their wheelchair, with their arms raised behind it, not waiting to be pushed.

In a release, the school described its involvement as "an effort to reduce stigma and discrimination of persons with disabilities."

Richard Harlow is on the board of the Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre, and is vision-impaired. He was a major driver behind VIU's decision to make the change.

New Accessible Icon

The individual in the new icon is in a much more active position than the previous sign.

"We've been updating the way we kind of treat people with disabilities, but the iconography to detect people with disabilities hasn't really [been] updated since the eighties," he said. "[The new symbol is] an ability icon over a disability icon."

Created by a team of graphic designers and disability activists in New York, the new sign depicts an active individual, leaning forward in their wheelchair, pushing themselves instead of waiting to be pushed.

New icon shows strength

"This new icon shows a lot more strength, shows courage. It shows independence. It shows everything a person with a disability is and so much more," said Harlow.

He hopes the City of Nanaimo will soon join VIU, and other cities across the world, which have already adopted the new icon.

wheelchair accessible symbol

The universal icon that lets everyone know a building is wheelchair accessible or that a parking spot is designated for those with disabilities. (CBC)

"[The person in the old sign,] they need help, and that sort of helplessness attitude is sort of unfortunate," he said.

He plans to take his proposal to Nanaimo city council in the next several months, with the eventual goal of seeing the new symbol in bathrooms and parking lots around the city.