Symbolizing All Of Us in the Disability Movement

plus disab.001

Description of picture a dark blue plus sign is in the middle of a light blue square.

I am a comedian, but I guess not for this post.  Straight Disability Studies nerd for this….

For years I have been searching for a symbol that unifies the Disability community that encompasses the diversity (both disability and other cultures) that we have.  I have always been jealous of the LGBT community because they have flags and symbols that begin to encompass their experiences.  The Disability has the American flag with the wheelchair symbol where the stars are, but I don’t see it used to represent our community.

A few weeks I was reading Jenny Morris’ Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability.  Morris writes in detail about the Third Reich’s  T-4 project.  The T4 project was the the Nazi final solution for people with Disabilities and targeted practices of euthanasia under premise that these were mercy killings and that these individuals were a burden on society.  Much propaganda went into rationalizing these killings.  Do search no the T-4 project to learn more about it.  I learned something for Morris that I never knew.  The manner in which the Nazi doctors coded whether of not to proceed with the termination of life was with a + (plus) and – (minus) symbol.  The – (minus) indicated that the person will be allowed to live and a + (plus) indicated that they would be killed.

These symbols had a great impression on me.  For years I have searched for something like the Rainbow flag or the pink triangle that symbolically conveyed the experience of the community.  The pink triangle especially impressed me because it was the symbol the Nazi’s used to brand homosexuals in concentration camps.  The LGBT community took the symbol back.   Was there a symbol that we could “take back” from oppressive experiences and make it our own?  There was no branding of people with Disabilities in camps because they were murdered fairly quickly.  For me the + (plus) symbolizes our struggle as well as our strengths.  I also feel that the + (plus) encompasses those with apparent and nonapparent Disabilities because it was meant to indicate any number of Disabilities that the Third Reich saw as unworthy lives (extending to psychiatric Disabilities).  Often times society reinforces messages that we are less than, that we are burdens to our families, communities and society.  For me, taking back the + (plus) emphasizes what the Disability community has accomplished and continues to contribute to the world.

I made the symbol “handicap parking blue” to express the need for access and civil rights.  I am not sure if this is a color universal associated with access so the applicability may be limited to the US.  Plus I am not sure if the blue on blue is friendly to some visual Disabilities.  I imagine there could be variations like a pink + (plus) for women with disabilities, a rainbow one for LGBT communities with Disabilities, or colors associated with particular disabilities (sea-green for stuttering)

I am sure that I could go on and on, but I just wanted to put this out there as well as to challenge others to consider symbols or flags that unify us as a community and express our experiences.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Other comments from Darren Brown:

” As a youth with speech impediments, colorblindness, mental health issues and now, a physical disability, I think it’s time we look beyond our popular notion of what disability entails.”


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