The International Symbol of Access is a standard icon for building and parking access for people with disabilities.

Has this icon, by itself, gained acceptance as a standard icon for web accessibility? If not, is there a variant of it or another icon which is considered acceptable?

Most web accessibility initiatives are targeted toward improving the user experience for users with blindness, colorblindness, hearing impairments, learning difficulties, or inability to use a mouse. The International Symbol of Access depicts a person in a wheelchair, and the conditions I just listed are unrelated to being in a wheelchair.

I would like to know if user feedback has shown any icon as acceptable/canonical, or if (for example) users with colorblindness would be insulted at seeing a wheelchair icon on on my site.

  • 1
    My opinion would be that the standard symbol you link to would be sufficient to communicate your intentions for your particular situation. Commented May 1, 2014 at 17:15
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    I tried Google images search, but this was the closest to relevant result I found :-) Commented May 4, 2014 at 20:16
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    Philosophical comment: physical world accessibility is often separate from the rest. Bathrooms, parking stalls, etc. Web accessibility shouldn't be separate...perhaps making the need for an icon for web accessibility completely moot.
    – DA01
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 19:55

3 Answers 3


I understand it's meaning but as you mentioned that icon looks more applicable for someone with a physical disability only.

Specific uses of the International Symbol of Access include:

  • Marking a parking space reserved for vehicles used by disabled people/blue badge holders

  • Marking a vehicle used by a disabled person, often for permission to use a space

  • Marking a public lavatory with facilities designed for wheelchair users

  • Indicating a button to activate an automatic door

  • Indicating an accessible transit station or vehicle

  • Indicating a transit route that uses accessible vehicles

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Symbol_of_Access

People who fall into the category of requiring an accessible website may sometimes have other afflictions beyond just physical.

This can include:

  • Mental disability (examples: ADHD, inability to focus, various forms of alzheimers...etc)

  • Sensory disability (examples: Blindness, Deaf..etc)

  • General inability to fully engage in content (examples: multitasking with tablet in front of TV, inability to view video because driving, inability to hear audio because of lack of head phones in public spaces)

Why not just use the Universal Access icon?

universal access icon

I know this was created by Apple but I agree with their definition including more barrier-free digital access for all of the above (Hearing, Sight, Physical, and Learning Impairment)

Or if copyright is the issue as always with Apple, the other icon you can use is the official one for web, as provided by W3C:



This one is probably the best one depending on your conformance level to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

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    Oh dear that W3C logo is exceedingly web 1.0
    – Zelda
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 20:33
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    Lol @BenBrooka yes I agree but it makes the most sense considering they are the authority on web accessibility specifically.
    – Pdxd
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 20:47

I'm surprised nobody has really asked why you need an icon like this.

I've been in the 508 business for quite a while now and I can tell you that there's a LOT of things you can do on the web to make it just work for everyone. There doesn't need to be an entrance for normal people and a back door entrance for those who have disabilities. You shouldn't really need to blow your own horn and announce that the site is accessible because it should just be from the get go.

If you want a universal icon to let people know 'Hey! We're accessible, click here for our charter!", well, do you REALLY need one? Why not just use a standard text link that reads "Accessibility"? It's clear, simple, and accessible to anyone on the web.

As a design challenge, though, this is really interesting :) It's probably as difficult as finding an alternate to the floppy "save" icon. Unfortunately, a single all inclusive icon will be pretty darn hard to generate considering the sheer amount of disabilities one must encompass. How do you differentiate Schizophrenia from panic attacks? It's definitely going to be very conceptual as it can't really rely on physical metaphors. There isn't a real world analog that I can think of that expresses this concept.

I'd have to agree with Evil Closet Monkey. The standard should suffice if you really need to use one. Just make sure it has a relevant title or alt tag!

  • +1. The site needs an icon like this because the icon's purpose isn't to announce that my site is accessible. The icon and its related service (improving the accessibility of other people's websites) would be on a page explaining what all of my services are. It's a B2B site for my portfolio.
    – David
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 23:11
  • Ahh.. that clears it up quite a bit :) Thank you. if it's any help, the W3C used the ubiquitous wheelchair man to illustrate their web accessibility initiative: flickr.com/photos/yaccesslab/5408475118/in/photostream In my opinion, this symbol kind of embodies most of the concepts of a disability and is universally recognized as such.
    – Curlyman72
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 22:22

I think you should include a multi-selection menu or popup alerts to ask the user to select an option, based on that you can update the icon so the other user won't get offended by the (wheel) icon.

In most of the websites the designer are using wheel icon for disability.



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