State Sen. Beth Bye, who represents West Hartford as well as Bloomfield, Burlington, and Farmington, said that the updated signs would be phased in at no additional cost to taxpayers and businesses.
State Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) joined Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Friday in announcing that the governor has introduced legislation designed to modernize the signage that designates reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities.
The updated symbol and language, called for by advocates internationally, is more reflective of the diverse community of those who utilize the accessible parking spaces.
“Symbols and words have meaning in our society. When we change certain symbols and words, we help change and improve our understanding of the world around us,” said Sen. Bye, who was an early proponent of the new sign. “This change – which was proposed last summer by a constituent of mine, which I publicly endorsed last fall, and which is now being promoted by the governor – will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Connecticut residents.”
Under the proposal, the updated signs will only be installed at times when a new accessible parking space is being created or when an old sign is damaged or weathered and needs to be replaced. As such, the revamped signs will come at no additional cost to taxpayers or businesses.
“For decades, Connecticut has been at the forefront in fighting discrimination against persons with disabilities, and this proposal is just one small, simple change that we can make. Even though it will have zero costs, it can have an important long-term impact by fostering a deeper understanding of accessibility,” Gov. Malloy said.
The current access symbol is nearly half a century old, depicting a symbol of a stationary individual. The new symbol, known globally as the ‘Modified International Symbol of Access,’ suggests independence and engagement, placing the visual focus from the wheelchair to the individual. In addition to adopting the updated symbol, Gov. Malloy’s legislation will remove the out-of-date word “handicapped” from the signs and replace it with the word “reserved.”
Last year, the State of New York adopted similar legislation replacing the outdated symbol with the modernized version, and many small businesses in Connecticut have already begun voluntarily making this change.
One of Connecticut’s larger businesses, Cigna, has already decided to begin voluntarily converting their signage to the modernized version at their locations in the state. The city of Phoenix, Arizona has also adopted the new symbol.
“I’m excited to work along with the governor in changing our handicapped symbol to one that displays both physical and mental independence,” Jonathan Slifka, the governor’s Liaison to the Disability Community, said. “It is my sincere hope that we can all view the spirit of the sign rather than the literal vision and agree that this change is appropriate and long overdue.”
Stephen Morris, the executive director of Favarh, The Arc of Farmington Valley, started a campaign last fall called “Change the Sign, Change the Attitude” to promote adoption of the new design in Connecticut. He also created an online petition that to date has over 2,000 signatures.
“Changing the accessible parking sign is not the biggest nor the most important disability-related issue that we face as a state. However it is important to my friends at Favarh and to more than 2,000 people who signed our petition. It’s also important to the degree that it will bring much needed attention to larger issues such as the misuse of accessible parking spots and the inaccessibility of many buildings and public places in our community,” Morris said. “We may all need an accessible community at some point in our lives. This isn’t just about changing a parking sign, it’s about public awareness of disability issues. And this isn’t about changing the community for a few of us. It is about improving the community for all of us.”
The governor’s legislation is House Bill 5050, An Act Modernizing the Symbol of Access for Persons with Disabilities. It is has been referred to the Government Administration and Elections Committee for consideration.