Accessibility activists want to ditch iconic symbol highlighting the wheelchair, not the person

The Forward Movement is pushing the province to adopt a dynamic wheelchair symbol throughout Ontario.

The Forward Movement pushing the province to adopt dynamic wheelchair symbol

The Forward Movement co-founders Dylan Itzikowitz (centre) and Jonathan Silver (right) and ambassador Samantha Cooper (left) pose with the dynamic wheelchair symbol they're hoping Ontario will adopt. (Dylan Itzikowitz)

In the early morning hours of July 2 last year, Dylan Itzikowitz was walking through North York when he was hit by an alleged drunk driver.

He doesn't remember the crash, but he does remember waking up in the hospital with an array of injuries: A broken right arm, broken left leg, busted kneecap, torn knee ligaments, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and major nerve damage.

He spent two months in the hospital, put his graduate studies on hold — and has been in and out of a wheelchair ever since.

"The realization came when I was out of the hospital and I tried to go back to the life I had before," Itzikowitz recalled. "And I realized I couldn't because of how inaccessible the city is."

Inspired by own his sudden shift from able-bodied to wheelchair-reliant, the 22-year-old has since co-founded The Forward Movement — a local organization pushing the province to adopt a dynamic wheelchair symbol throughout Ontario, instead of the iconic design on bathrooms and buttons that many say emphasizes the static chair.

"It was all about the disability, and not about the person," said Itzikowitz.

The Forward Movement hopes Ontario will phase out the iconic wheelchair icon (left) in favour of adopting a dynamic icon (right) going forward.

'Why can't Ontario be next?'

He heard about a different variation of the wheelchair symbol, created by the U.S.-based Accessible Icon Project, while he was in the hospital recovering from his injuries — one that highlights the person in the chair, and shows them in motion.

Now, alongside co-founder Jonathan Silver, a design activist, Itzikowitz is lobbying the Ontario government to amend the Building Code and Highway Traffic Act allowing the use of the new design.

Itzikowitz says The Forward Movement isn't pushing for old symbols to be changed, but rather for the new symbol to be used going forward.

It's something he says is already being done in cities across North America, and in states including New York and Connecticut. 

"Ontario has a commitment to accessibility," he said. "Why can't Ontario be next?"

The Forward Movement's co-founders, Jonathan Silver (left) and Dylan Itzikowitz (right). (The Forward Movement)

Group has launched petition, fundraiser

The pair have launched a petition calling for government support, and at a kick-off event on Sunday, Itzikowitz said the group got the backing of MPP Bill Walker.

Walker, he says, has agreed to present their upcoming proposal to the Minister of Accessibility Tracy MacCharles.

They've also launched a fundraising campaign to provide stickers with the new logo to any Ontario business that wants them.

"This movement is growing — people really believe in the power of symbols, and our society is becoming more and more accepting, and more committed, to helping people with disabilities," Itzikowitz said.

Toronto-based The Forward Movement is pushing Ontario to adopt a dynamic wheelchair logo developed by The Accessible Icon Project. (Accessible Icon Project)

Using a wheelchair doesn't mean 'life is over'

Supporter Paul Rosen, a three-time Paralympian and gold medal-winner, says the movement is crucial to changing perceptions.

"I want people to understand that just because you're in a wheelchair or you're missing your leg or you have certain issues, it doesn't mean your life is over," he said. 

The new design encapsulates that, Rosen added.

"The wheelchair is moving forward," he said. "We're not sitting still — we're not moving backwards."