A petition urging state lawmakers and the governor to change the longstanding icon and wording on handicapped parking signs has garnered about 800 signatures online in the past three weeks.
The campaign — titled “Change the Sign. Change the Attitude.” — is being spearheaded by The Arc of Farmington Valley, a Canton-based nonprofit more commonly known as Favarh, which advocates for people with disabilities.
As of Wednesday evening, the group’s petition had 802 signatures. It was started three weeks ago, according to Change.org, the site that hosts it. The petition is being circulated via social media.
The petition asks lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to update the image that appears on handicapped parking signs, and to change the word “handicapped” to “reserved” on the signs.
“This can be done in a budget-neutral manner by applying the change only to new installations and signs that need replacement,” the petition reads.
According to the petition, the traditional handicapped parking symbol — that of a person in a wheelchair — has recently been updated, but the newer version is not yet widely used and Connecticut’s parking signs do not reflect the change.
The newer icon still has someone in a wheelchair, but shows the person leaning forward as opposed to sitting straight up, depicting a more active person. Advocates say the new graphic emphasizes the person, not the wheelchair.
“The new symbol is universally viewed as a more positive depiction of a person who has accessibility needs,” the petition says. Additionally, “no one with an accessibility need wants to be thought of as ‘handicapped.”
To that end, the group is urging lawmakers to remove that word from future parking signs, opting instead for simply “reserved.”
“Everybody wants to be seen as capable, confident and independent,” the petition says. “This issue is not about changing a sign. It is about changing expectations. It’s not about changing the community for a few of us. It is about improving the community for all of us.”
Some signers of the online petition have left comments about why they signed it.
“It’s the right thing to do,” wrote someone from Barkhamsted.
A signer from Florida wrote, “The term handicapped paints a picture of someone less whole. The picture of the abled person moving his chair with the term ‘Reserved’ is perfect!”
And, among others, someone from Massachusetts wrote, “This is a small and easy change that can make big waves when it comes to attitudes and perceived notions.”
Change.org lists the creator of the petition as Stephen Morris, who is executive director of Favarh, and the petition is featured prominently on Favarh’s website.
“I am optimistic that lawmakers will be receptive to making this change,” Morris said, adding that those he has spoken to about it seem supportive.
The governor is interested in exploring the option, said spokesman David Bednarz.
“The state of Connecticut continues to strive to ensure that all of its citizens, including those with disabilities, are fully supported as valued, capable, and active members of our communities,” he said. “The changes sought here (in the petition) reflect an updated, more accurate, and more accepted understanding of what it means to be an individual who has a disability, and Gov. Malloy is interested in working with these advocates on advancing these types of goals.”
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, said he hopes the topic is discussed before the Transportation Committee, which he co-chairs.
“We should try to do as much as possible for disabled people,” he said. “I am more than willing to have this conversation in the committee.”
If they were to proceed with such a change, Guerrera said, lawmakers would have to explore whether and how other states made similar updates and ensure the public was informed about the change.