Hazardous Journeys

Depiction of elderly and disabled people on road traffic signs: international comparison

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7429.1456 (Published 18 December 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1456
  1. Richard P Gale (richard.gale@york.nhs.uk), specialist registrar1,
  2. Christopher P Gale, specialist registrar2,
  3. T A Roper, consultant3,
  4. Graham P Mulley, professor4
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, York Hospital, York YO31 8HE,
  2. 2Department of Cardiology, York Hospital,
  3. 3Department of Medicine, The General Infirmary at Leeds, Leeds LS1 3EX,
  4. 4Department of Elderly Medicine, St James's University Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF
  1. 1Correspondence to: R P Gale

    The traffic sign for elderly or disabled people crossing the road was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1981 after a children's competition.1 It portrays a silhouette of a man with a flexed posture using a cane and leading a kyphotic woman (fig 1). The same sign is also used for frail, disabled, or blind people, even though many of these people are not old. The sign implies that osteopaenic vertebral collapse and the need for mobility aids are to be expected with physical disability as well as with advancing age.


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    Elderly people should not be stigmatised as being impaired or inevitably disabled. We had observed that some countries did not depict these groups in this way and wondered how road signs worldwide illustrate elderly people, as well as people with physical disabilities.

    Participants, methods, and results

    We obtained addresses from the British Diplomatic List 2001,2 and we …

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