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Accessible Icon Project // Public Domain
Accessible Icon Project // Public Domain

Activists Propose New Disability Access Symbol

Accessible Icon Project // Public Domain
Accessible Icon Project // Public Domain

When’s the last time you looked—really looked—at a street sign? Icons and symbols are all around us, so familiar that we barely even notice them. But whether or not we think about it, those symbols are messages. And activists say one of those messages, the disability access sign, is overdue for an update. 

Take a look at the current International Symbol of Access, which depicts a person sitting in a wheelchair. Not moving, not acting, just sitting. This message (which could be read as: disabled person = passive object + wheelchair) is both problematic and outdated, according to activists from the Accessible Icon Project.

Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney created an alternative symbol depicting a person in motion in a wheelchair. At first, they disseminated the image through a sort of guerilla art activism, slapping new icon decals over the old symbol on public signs around Boston. 

“We wanted this icon-action to be the occasion for asking questions about disability and the built environment, in the largest sense,” Hendren writes on the project’s website. “Who has access—physically, yes, but moreover, to education, to meaningful citizenship, to political rights? Framing this work as a street art campaign allowed it to live as a question, rather than a resolved proposition.”

Before long, the campaign had drawn media attention, and Hendren and Glenney realized their project could make big changes if they went mainstream. They teamed up with a graphic designer to make a new icon that met international guidelines.

From its grassroots beginnings, the new dynamic icon has become a real contender to replace the old symbol. New York legislators have already adopted the person-in-motion icon, and Connecticut may be next. A bill introduced by Governor Dan Molloy suggests discarding the old symbol and instead marking public signs with “ … a dynamic character leaning forward with a sense of movement.” 

It’s worth noting that the symbol has some limitations. Not all people with disabilities use wheelchairs; in fact, most don’t. Many disabilities are invisible, which can lead to extremely unpleasant misunderstandings in parking lots. But designers are making inroads there, too: this past summer, Washington, D.C.’s public transit unveiled awesome signs encouraging awareness of invisible disabilities.

Together, this new generation of signs and symbols are moving us towards a more conscientious future.

[h/t Quartz]

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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