Merriam swaps standard disability sign for more progressive symbol


IN VOGUE: Activists within the disabled community are encouraging municipalities like Merriam to replace the standard disability access sign with this new symbol, arguing it depicts a more active individual.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — The City of Merriam has adopted a more progressive and politically correct disability access sign following a city council meeting Monday.

REMOVED: The international symbol for disability access has fallen out of favor in the City of Merriam.

REMOVED: The international symbol for disability access has fallen out of favor in the City of Merriam.

At the behest of councilman Al Frisby, as well as local activist and former Kansas City Star journalist Finn Bullers, city leaders approved spending around $1,400 to replace the municipality’s 40 disabled access signs spread across city parks, buildings and parking lots. They will also spend about $275 for a parking lot stencil.

Bullers, Midwest regional coordinator for the Accessible Icon Project, which is pushing for municipal adoption of the signage across the country, said in a June letter to Merriam council members the four-decade-old standard symbol has fallen out of favor among disabled individuals.

“Simply put, we want to replace the ubiquitous stick-figure access symbol seen on the right and used in parking lots, restrooms and other access points that many people in the disability community perceive as stoic, rigid and disengaged,” he wrote.

Ken Sissom, Mayor

Ken Sissom, Mayor

The new signs feature a more active stick figure, depicted as leaning forward with arms raise behind to convey a sense of movement.

Neither Bullers nor AIP co-director Jeff Gentry could be reached for comment by Kansas Watchdog.

Ken Sissom, Merriam mayor, said municipal leaders were happy to meet Bullers’ request.

“Anything we can do to try and promote the handicapped community in a positive way is good, and this seemed to be a new and innovative approach,” Sissom said.

While the change only applies to public signs, Sissom hopes private businesses will follow suit.

Though the city had the option of going with a cheaper, adhesive-backed cover to apply to existing signs at a cost of around $8 each, Merriam instead opted to replace all signs for roughly $35 apiece. Sissom noted that many were in need of repair or replacement already.

“Our city can certainly afford it,” he added.

“(Disabled individuals are) trying to change their image they’re trying to show they’re lively people … they believe this new signage will help portray that,” Sissom said.

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