The Scandinavian Roots of the International Symbol of Access

Although the International Symbol of Access (ISA) has undergone a sustained critique in recent years, its roots in Scandinavian design are largely ignored. This article argues that much of the tension around the symbol today can be traced to the vexed circumstances surrounding its creation and adoption. It traces its invention to a Scandinavian design scene in the late 1960s that was itself undergoing profound change under a variety of influences, including educational reform, a growing commitment to design for the disabled, and the ongoing intervention of reformers like the Austrian–American theorist Victor Papanek.