A proposed new ‘Any Disability’ sign for toilets and other accessible facilities in the UK will be unveiled in the Commons today.

The new symbol emphasises that not all disabilities are visible, and has been inspired by 14-year-old East Lothian pupil Grace Warnock, who has Crohn’s Disease.

Martin Whitfield MP is meeting with the British Standards Institute (BSI), the national standards body of the UK, and the UK Government’s Disability Minister Justin Tomlinson as part of a round-table event to discuss the proposed change.

He will also lead a Commons debate today on invisible disabilities and accessibility challenges.

The aim is for the sign to be recognised by the BSI as the accepted sign for accessible facilities, including toilets, parking spaces and assistance points, and for it then to be rolled out across the UK – replacing the wheelchair symbol commonly used on accessible toilet signs and Blue Badge parking permits.

The development of the new sign was inspired by the success of the Grace’s Sign campaign led by Grace Warnock, a pupil at Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans. Grace, who has Crohn’s Disease, designed her own sign following her own experience of using accessible toilets, including receiving negative remarks from adults who did not appreciate or understand her disability.

Grace has received high level recognition for her inspirational campaign, including a Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister and a British Citizen Youth Award.

The new Any Disability symbol has been designed by StudioLR as an evolution of Grace’s sign, through a Life Changes Trust Award funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“The impact of accessibility challenges faced by those living with ‘invisible’ disabilities has too often been overlooked or ignored. 

“However, thanks to the dedicated work of numerous charities and inspirational individual campaigners like Grace Warnock, the issue is finally starting to receive the attention it deserves.

“This Commons debate will provide another opportunity for MPs to speak out on behalf of their constituents who live with hidden disabilities and describe the challenges and negative responses they can experience while going about their daily lives. 

“I hope the debate will help to increase awareness around these complicated issues and lead to greater understanding about the daily challenges faced by so many people living with a wide range of conditions.”

Grace Warnock said:

“The story of my sign came from my own experience of an adult questioning my use of an accessible toilet this ignorance drove me to design the first Grace’s Sign to educate others on invisible disabilities and to encourage everyone to have a heart.”

Rob Turpin, Healthcare Market Development Manager at the British Standards Institute, said: 

“As the UK National Standards Body, BSI works across many sectors to address accessibility issues and we look forward to discussing further how standards can help ensure public information signage is inclusive.”

Lucy Richards, Creative Director at StudioLR, which designed the new sign, said:

“The wheelchair symbol is commonly used on accessible toilet signs and Blue Badge parking permits; however, this symbol doesn’t represent the people with wide-ranging impairments who use these facilities and services. 

“Having followed Grace Warnock’s campaign to raise awareness that some people who use accessible toilets have an invisible disability – for instance Crohn’s disease or dementia – the design team at StudioLR saw an opportunity to build on this. 

“With a Life Changes Trust Award funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, StudioLR has conceived, designed and tested a new, inclusive symbol that can be rolled out across toilets, parking signs and assistance points. 

“We created the new Any Disability symbol because people with a hidden disability have the right to access facilities and services without having to explain their personal circumstances. It’s about building awareness as well as preventing prejudice.”