Visual. Audio. Perception. Everything is a matter of perception.
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 to each.
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.
The affordance of audio narration is the ability to control the mood that is set. If you stop at certain points throughout the podcast provided, the listener is able to 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. Additionally, the ability to speak to a number of people in a short amount of time is an audio affordance that comes to mind.
I learned that there are several factors that have to be taken into account before the current symbol can be replaced. For instance, whether or not this icon may be confused with symbols used with wheelchair raising (5:55). This information is useful and should be shared with people who are working to replace the symbol, as it may 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.
Additionally, given the fact that there is a lack of clarity as to whether or not a 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” (Lauren Ober, 10:34). 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.
Alphabetic text is a type of arrangement that helps you organize your words, lists, or any text for that matter. I was 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, is enlightening. 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.” For instance, the following warning signs, are universal.
This is one thing the podcast is unable to do. Alphabetic text allows us to see specific details that we are unable to see while listening to a podcast.
In alphabetic text, we have the ability to look at what the author is attempting to get across, when images are included. Wherein, with audio, we are left with our own imagination while the speakers attempt to create a visual with their words, which is not always successful. For instance, in the alphabetic text written in sub – paragraph 9: “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.”, accompanied by the drawings below, is vivid and clear.
Similarly, another example of image and alphabetic text, as shown below, 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. We would not be able to grasp the visual or the moment, by listening to a podcast.
While it may seem to some that this project has a “do it yourself nature”, like Roman stated in paragraph 11, I think this shows the dedication that the Accessible Icon Project has and how bad they want this change.
The image above 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.
Both have benefits, however, it can be argued that one or the other should be used, depending upon the reason.
We, the audience, will always have our preference, however, if a video interview is the method used, we would be able to put a face with a voice, which would make the interview more personal, in my opinion.
For example, in the podcast, we heard that “Brendon has Cerebral Palsy and hearing loss and speaks through an augmentative communication device or a talking machine” from Roman Mars (8:46), however, it would have had a profound effect, had the audience been able to see him and watch his attempt at communication. By simply reproducing the subject’s interview, the audience may question why the podcast team would choose this option. 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.
In conclusion, this article and podcast show 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. Each communication mode has affordance, but they have to be used correctly to project the perception that the author is trying to accomplish.