Learning About

Access Signs and Symbols
Visual Communication

Image: White wheelchair access symbol on a blue background.


Accessible communication is not limited to written or spoken language. There are many ways to communicate meaning, emotion and information, such as: numbers, images, body language, sound, gestures, and touch. By opening up the definition of communication and offering equal deference to the different ways people communicate, public and private spaces can be open and inviting to everyone. In this section, we will look at signs and symbols that are used to represent access, how they are used, and examine new and revised versions. Universal access symbols offer a simple, inclusive way to promote and communicate the accessibility features of a space – either digital or physical – to a wide range of people with different access needs, without privileging any written language.

Developing an Understanding

There are a number of symbols used to indicate access. Here are some examples of disability access symbols designed by the Graphic Artists Guild Foundation to indicate accessibility features, accessible locations, spaces and buildings. They can be used as building signage, on floor plans and maps and on print documents (Graphic Arts Guild Foundation, n.d.).

Silhouette of a person using a white cane

Access (Other Than Print or braille) for Individuals Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

This symbol indicates access for people who are blind or have low vision and can be used on pathways or to indicate a guided tour.

 Silhouette of a person using a wheelchair

Symbol for Wheelchair Accessibility

The wheelchair symbol indicates access for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

A and D with sound waves to depict Audio Description

Audio Description

This symbol indicates audio description of video or live events. This is also referred to as Video Description.

 A telephone receiver with a keyboard underneath depicting a text telephone

Telephone Typewriter (TTY)

This is a symbol for a device is known as a text telephone (TT), or telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD).

 A telephone receiver with sound waves depicting volume control

Volume Control Telephone

This symbol indicates the presence of telephones that have handsets with amplified sound and/or adjustable volume controls.

Illustration of an ear with sound waves depicting assistive devices

Assistive Listening Systems

These systems transmit amplified sound via hearing aids, headsets or other devices.

Silhouette of hands interpreting American Sign Language

Sign Language Interpretation

The symbol indicates that Sign Language Interpretation is provided for a lecture, tour, film, performance, conferences or other program.

Large Print in white letters on a black background

Accessible Print (18 pt. or Larger)

Large print is indicated by the words: “Large Print,” printed in 18 pt. or larger text. Sans serif or modified serif print with high contrast is important, and special attention should be paid to letter and word spacing.

  A question Mark in a circle

The Information Symbol

The information symbol indicates the location for specific information or materials concerning access, such as “LARGE PRINT” materials, audio recordings of materials, or sign interpreted tours.

Two letter c's depicting Closed Captioning

Closed Captioning (CC)

This is the Closed Captioning (CC) symbol, which indicates captions on video. Here, closed captioning can be turned on or off.

 The letter o and the letter c depicting Open Captions

Opened Captioning (OC)

This symbol indicates that captions are present on a video and cannot be turned on or off.

 A braille cell. 6 dots in 2 vertical rows with the word braille underneath

Braille Symbol

This symbol indicates that printed material is available in braille.

— Modified from the Graphic Artist Guild Foundation