Merriam city council moves toward partial implementation of new disabled access icon

Prairie Village resident Finn Bullers, shown here in 2014, encouraged Merriam to allow the updated icon on vertical signage as well as asphalt.
Prairie Village resident Finn Bullers, shown here in 2014, encouraged Merriam to allow the updated icon on vertical signage as well as asphalt.

On a split vote Monday, the Merriam City Council took a step toward adding the modernized acton version of the accessible icon that marks parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities.

For now, the new icon will be used only on the pavement at city-owned spaces. It will not be used on the vertical signs because that is still prohibited by federal regulation.

The traditional disabled access symbol (left), and the new symbol Bullers is advocating for (right).
The traditional disabled access symbol (left), and the new symbol that will be used in Merriam.

The move to start the implementation was championed by Merriam Councilor Al Frisby. “It puts our foot in the door. It is welcoming,” Frisby said. He pointed out that IKEA already has put the new action icon on its accessible pavement parking spaces.

The issue has been going on for more than a year, Frisby pointed out, with the council fully supporting the new symbol. That change was stopped by federal regulations that dictate the standard icon on vertical parking signs. No legal issue exists for what the city puts on the pavement, he said. “We are slipping further behind … to welcome the disabled to our city.”

The current international symbol is required on the vertical signs by federal regulation, city attorney Michelle Daise confirmed.

Goddard, Kan., and New York State were noted as places that have chosen to ignore the federal mandate.

Both Councilors Jim Wymer and Robert Weems said they did not believe anyone had a problem recognizing the old symbol. “To me it doesn’t make a bit of difference,” Wymer said.

“I am not sure that’s the point,” Frisby responded. “It’s not that they don’t recognize it, it’s that it welcomes the disabled to the community.”

The council voted 5-3 to immediately replace the pavement markings on four spaces around city hall with new decals and to replace the marking on all other city-owned lots as needed. Voting against the change were Wymer, Cheryl Moore and Bob Pape. Joining Frisby in passing the motion were Nancy Hupp, Chris Hands, Weems and Scott Diebold.

Finn Bullers, a Prairie Village resident who is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for The Accessible Icon Project, thanked Merriam for its support. Bullers, though, contended that no fines will be imposed on cities that change the symbol on vertical signs, citing the director of the U.S. Access Board, which represents people with disabilities. Bullers urged a complete change to the new icon, including vertical signs.