Pedestrian signals in London, England have a new look, after the iconic green walking man was replaced with wheelchair user symbols at five intersections in a nod to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated each year on December 3. Transport for London (TfL), which rolled out the project, wrote that “It’s important to us to increase the visibility of disabled Londoners across our city.”
Londoners and visitors to the capital city will see the specially designed green wheelchair user symbols at the following locations, which are close to some of the busiest Tube stations that offer step-free access for wheelchair users and people with disabilities.
- Bishopsgate by New Street (City of London)
- Warwick Road by Earl’s Court Station (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)
- Grays Inn Road with Kings Cross Bridge (Camden)
- Tower Hill by Tower Hill Station (Tower Hamlets)
- Whitechapel Road by Whitechapel Station (Tower Hamlets)
Two designs were chosen, one showing a person using a manual wheelchair and another depicting a person using an electric wheelchair. TfL worked closely with its Independent Disability Advisory Group (IDAG) and other key disability stakeholders to develop the imagery.
The idea originated with Three-time Olympian and gold medal winning rower Captain Pete Reed OBE, who became paralyzed from the chest down after a 2019 spinal stroke. According to TfL, Reed “wanted to raise awareness of all the disabled Londoners and visitors to the city so that the disabled community can travel more easily and add value to the city as residents, workers or tourists.”
In speaking of the importance of increased visibility for the disability community, Reed said, “I hope this visibility in mainstream life makes more people feel comfortable about getting out in the city and raising their voices where they see opportunity for positive change and collaboration.”
While more work must still be done to make public transportation in London fully accessible to people with disabilities, small gestures like these remind us all not to divert attention from the important work of accessibility.
As for me, I look forward to seeking out the green wheelchair icons during my next trip to London — the visual will serve as a positive affirmation, an acknowledgement of my existence, with the power to warm the heart. This project, though small in scale, reminds me of the crosswalks in Indiana, where a handful were painted to feature a wheelchair icon. It’s nice to be seen!
Has your hometown or another city incorporated disability imagery into public infrastructure? Let me know in the comments below!