The General Administration and Elections Committee voted 9-6 Friday in favor of sending legislation modernizing handicapped parking signs to a full vote of the General Assembly.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is supporting H.B. 5050, changing the handicapped parking symbol on signs throughout the state.
If the General Assembly adopts the legislation, the new logo would replace the current stick figure in a wheelchair with a sleeker wheelchair design that represents a person tilted forward and on the move.
The proposed legislation isn’t without controversy, as those against claim the legislation would conflict with federal laws.
Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, said: “I was going to vote against this bill. But the sign is being used nationally and internationally.
“This new sign is being used around the world, including by the government of the United States at the Department of Treasury building,’’ continued Cassano. “We’ve been shown four pages of photos of this new sign being used all over the United States and Europe.’’
Voting against the legislation, though, was Sen. Michael A. McLachlan, R-Danbury.
“I appreciate the work that advocates for this legislation have done but I am respectfully declining to support it.’’ McLachlan said his reasoning was that “transportation experts who focus on this issue’’ don’t support the change.
Jonathan Slifka, the governor’s liaison to the disability community, said the proposal is revenue neutral because the new signs will only get added when an old sign has to be replaced.
It gives the Department of Administrative Services Commissioner the ability to replace the old signs with the new ones after Jan. 1, 2017.
Slifka, Malloy’s liaison to the disability community, said that far too often and for far too long the static handicap symbol has been ignored by the able-bodied community, “who seem to park in these spaces or use the accessible bathroom stalls in the interest of convenience.”
Slifka said changing the symbol “will catch people’s attention and remind them the disability does not park in these spaces or use these stalls in the interest of convenience, but rather necessity.”
He said New York has already moved forward with the change and he’s hoping Connecticut follows.
But some lawmakers have expressed concern about whether the new symbol conflicts with federal law.
Slifka said he doesn’t believe there’s anything in the Americans with Disabilities Act that would prevent the use of the new more active looking wheelchair symbol from being used.
He said in spite of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration ruling, New York has moved forward with the new symbol and Connecticut should follow.
New York changed its symbol before the highway administration released its ruling.
During a recent public hearing on the legislation held by the General Administration and Elections Committee, it was clear there wasn’t unanimity that the proposed legislation was a good idea.
“Adopting the new symbol may attempt to give disability a more positive image, but I would like us to slow down and think about all the issue,” Cathy Ludlum, a Manchester resident with spinal muscular atrophy, told the committee.
Ludlum said the new sleeker looking symbol “splits the disability community between people admired for their athletic prowess and those of us whose contributions may be less visible and less physical, but are no less important.”
She said for those who don’t not push their own wheelchair they may feel “criticized by a symbol that should empower us.”