After reading and listening to two different approaches to whether or not the international wheelchair symbol should be redesigned, I was able to learn about the affordance of different modes and the reaction each can get. Modes are ways of communicating or getting something across. Audio narration, alphabetic text, video interview, soundtrack, and image are all examples of modes. These modes can be used to help circulate, (spread information in different ways to different audiences), information. For this assignment, we are given two modes; audio narration and alphabetic text with image mixed in. Each mode is trying to teach us, the audience, the history of the International Symbol of Access, how the disabled community feels, and what the Accessible Icon Project is trying to accomplish. Roman Mars, Lauren Ober, Sarah Hendron, and other guests help get this information across in both the article and the podcast.
The audio narration used, is a podcast from 99% Invisible by Roman Mars and guests. The affordance of audio narration is the ability to control the mood that is set. If you stop at 2:25 of the 102 – Icon for Access podcast, and other times throughout, you can hear motivating music in the background. This helps the audience understand that the guests speaking out are not angry or sad, but motivated to make a change for their community. Another affordance of audio narration is the ability to do something else while listening. This is helpful to people who don’t like to sit and read or watch a video. The last affordance of audio narration (that I can think of), is the ability to speak to a number of people in a short amount of time. One thing that the podcast has that the article doesn’t, is the amount of people that are interviewed. In the podcast we hear from, Berry Grey, the chairman of the Technical Committee of Graphical Symbols (5 minutes and 55 seconds) who shared, “A lot of factors have to be taken into account before the current symbol can be replaced. Like whether or not this icon may be confused with symbols used with wheelchair raising”. This information is useful and should be shared with people that are working to replace the symbol. This information might even change the opinion of the Accessible Icon Project and might make them want to think of a different logo to use to speed up the process of changing the old symbol.
Another thing that we hear from the podcast that we don’t read in the article is, heard at 10 minutes and 34 seconds. We hear, reporter Lauren Ober say, “There’s a lack of clarity as to whether or not this new sign meets the standards put into effect by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even though the law states that reasonable changes can be made to the symbol as long as it clearly displays the wheelchair and indicates accessibility, there are still questions about what constitutes a functional equivalent. New York City planned to adopt the new logo in all five boroughs, but this legal ambiguity caused them to hold off implementing it, at least for now”. This information is also important because someone who has only read this article might change the symbol and might not be aware of the ADA code.
The negative side of audio narration, is that when you are listening to an audio narration it is harder to stop and think than it is when reading because it takes longer to find the exact spot you need to hear again. I noticed this when taking notes during the podcast. If you hear a sentence that you need to write down, you are so focused on finishing that sentence or thought that you miss the thing that is said next. This can be fixed however, by mixing audio narration and alphabetic text so readers can follow along to the podcast, like subtitles in a movie.
The alphabetic text used, is an article from Slate.com , (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_eye/2014/02/19/does_the_international_symbol_of_access_need_a_redesign_roman_mars_99_percent.html) . Alphabetic text is a type of arrangement that helps you organize your words, lists, or any text for that matter. In the Slate article, we are able to see the different ways alphabetic text is used and can use other modes, like image. Image helps us understand a text without necessarily reading words. For example, Roman Mars talks about the importance of logos in chapter one of the Slate article and in the podcast from the beginning until 00:40 seconds into it. He says, “There is a beauty to a universal standard. The idea that people across the world can agree that when they interact with one specific thing, everyone will be on the same page—regardless of language or culture or geographic locale. If you’re in Belgrade, Serbia, or Shanghai or São Paulo, you can look at a sign and know instantly, without speaking a word of the local language, that this floor is slippery. That the emergency exit is over there. That that substance is poisonous, and you should not eat it.” After this, Roman shows us in the article multiple ISO, (International Organization for Standardization), warning signs.
This is one thing the podcast can’t do. Alphabetic text allows us to see specific details that we can’t see while listening to a podcast. In the article, we are also able to see different versions of the proposed revised ISO icon opposed to hearing Sara Hendren, a co-founder for the Accessible Icon Project, and reporter Lauren Ober try to explain it to us in the podcast at 5 minutes and 15 seconds. The article shows us the icon and a diagram of it with a subparagraph after paragraph 9, that states, “1. Head is forward to indicate the forward motion of the person through space. Here the person is the “driver” or decision maker about her mobility. 2. Arm angle is pointing backward to suggest the dynamic mobility of a chair user, regardless of whether or not she uses her arms. Depicting the body in motion represents the symbolically active status of navigating the world. 3. By including white angled knockouts, the symbol presents the wheel as being in motion. These knockouts also work for creating stencils used in spray paint application of the icon. Having just one version of the logo keeps things more consistent and allows viewers to more clearly understand the intended message. 4. The human depiction in this icon is consistent with other body representations found in the ISO 7001 – DOT Pictograms. Using a different portrayal of the human body would clash with these established and widely used icons and could lead to confusion. 5. The leg has been moved forward to allow for more space between it and the wheel which allows for better readability and cleaner application of icon as a stencil.” This in – depth information is used to show us what the Accessible Icon Project is talking about.
Another way image and alphabetic text shows us something that the podcast doesn’t is an actual picture of people from the Accessible Icon Project altering signs with the current universal symbol of access to the symbol they want.
Roman states in paragraph 11 that, “The DIY nature of this logo redesign project points to the fact that the process by which this new project is getting adopted is the complete opposite of how the universal symbol of access became entrenched in global society”. I think this shows the dedication that the Accessible Icon Project has and how bad they want this change. This may seem like a simple picture, but this shows the action that is being taken. On the negative side, the mood cannot be set in an alphabetic text the way it is in an audio narration. There’s no music in the background and we can’t hear the tone the writer is speaking with, so while I might read this and understand the author is trying to be informal, the next person might think the author is too aggressive or not aggressive enough.
While both have benefits, it can be argued that other modes can be used. For example, a video interview could’ve been used. In a video interview, both audio narration and alphabetic texts can be used. We, the audience, would be able to put a face with a voice, which would make the interview more personal. Another reason a video interview would have been beneficial is to show Brendon Hildreth, a disability rights activist, that has to speak with an augmentative due to his Cerebral Palsy.
In the podcast, you hear Roman Mars, introduce Brendon at 8 minutes and 46 seconds and he says, “Brenden has Cerebral Palsy and hearing lost and speaks through an augmentative communication device or a talking machine. We reproduced it here, using an interview transcript.” This statement stuck out and made the audience start questioning why the podcast team would do this. If Brendon ‘s device couldn’t connect with the microphone or if he couldn’t make it to the radio station, that is completely understandable. These questions show why the choice of mode you use is important. If these aren’t the reasons why the podcast team recreated his voice, then it might change the reception of the audience because the main reason the Accessible Icon Project is trying to change the International Symbol of Access icon is to show that people with disabilities can do the same things as everyone else.
The main complaint from the Accessible Icon Project is that the current International Symbol of Access icon portrays people with disabilities as immobile and dependent. Being able to show Brendon would stop people from questioning the podcast team and would help develop a more personal connection. I think it would even help the audience see the frustration that this community is going through when they feel that they are capable of doing anything and everything that someone else can do.
Each communication mode has affordance, but they have to be used in the right way. This article and podcast shows the benefits and disadvantages that certain moods, audio narration and alphabetic text, have. With that being said, there is no mode that will represent something one hundred percent perfectly. There will always be a different way that something can be represented, but the goal is to find a balance between them.