Capitol Connection: Change the Sign. Change the Attitude.

October 19, 2015

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

A movement to change the way people view individuals with disabilities is gaining momentum at the state Capitol.

The goal: change the attitude about being “handicapped” starting with something small.

The small start now in focus is CT’s handicapped parking signs.

The Arc of Farmington Valley (Favarh), a Canton-based nonprofit that supports people with disabilities, is leading the way with an online petition calling on lawmakers to eliminate the word “handicapped” and replace it with “reserved” on all new parking signs. They are also asking that the “accessibility” icon, an image of a more active person leaning forward in a wheelchair, is used to replace the stationary wheelchair image.

Advocates say the new symbol is universally viewed as a more positive depiction of a person who has accessibility needs. The term “handicapped” is also outdated. According to the group’s petition, “the word is strongly associated with pity, charity, and helplessness. No one with an accessibility need wants to be thought of as ‘handicapped.’”

Last month, I was proud to stand with these advocates at a press conference at the Capitol to call attention to this issue. Since that event their petition jumped from having 800 signatures to having over 1,500!

To move this idea forward, lawmakers will have to discuss it during the next legislative session.

Some questioned the cost of these changes. But the proposal is actually “budget-neutral” meaning the group is not asking for any funding to replace old signs. Rather, the changes would only be applied to new sign installments and to signs that already need replacement.

Connecticut should be doing everything we can to help empower people with disabilities. From changing signs to properly funding services for the disabled, Connecticut is due for some serious changes. Next year, in addition to tackling signs and budget issues, I think the legislature should also examine the process for getting a handicapped designation to make sure the system is not being abused.

As the petition explains, “everybody wants to be seen as capable, confident and independent.” This is not just about changing a sign. It’s about changing expectations and attitudes.

To sign the petition visit or click here: